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Homeowner who shot burglar faces assault charge

Thu., April 26, 2012

A homeowner in Medical Lake accused of shooting a fleeing 14-year-old burglary suspect in the back last December has been charged with assault.

In new court documents, Spokane County sheriff’s detectives outline a shooting they believe went beyond homeowner Justin Jeffrey Brown defending his property and crossed the line to criminal assault.

Brown, 33, described an “overwhelming feeling of threat” because of the intruder, detectives say, but he admitted he didn’t know if the intruders in his marijuana growing room were facing him or if they were armed with weapons when he fired his .45-caliber pistol.

Brown also is charged with growing and possessing marijuana, along with his wife, Melissa Ann Brown, 31.

Detectives believe the boy and his friend, also 14, were trying to steal marijuana plants from the couple when he was shot Dec. 19.

The couple pleaded not guilty to the charges Wednesday in Spokane County Superior Court.

The boys, who are charged with burglary in juvenile court, were armed with baseball bats. They used a screwdriver to gain access to a storage room attached to Brown’s North Grant Avenue home that they believed contained marijuana plants, detectives say. The Browns live at the home with their three children.

The Spokesman-Review generally withholds the identities of juvenile crime suspects. Brown is charged in Superior Court with second-degree assault, which alleges he intentionally assaulted the boy as he was leaving the storage room.

Lawyers for the couple declined comment Wednesday. The Browns are due back in court July 6.

Brown said he had a medical marijuana authorization but that it had expired, detectives say. He told them he hadn’t grown marijuana since about a month before the shooting, but the boys said they’d seen plants there, and detectives found evidence of a growing operation when they searched the Browns’ property after the shooting.

Brown said he was in bed when he awoke to an alarm connected to a motion sensor in the growing room. He told detectives he’d installed the sensor just a few days earlier after the shooting victim allegedly broke in and stole marijuana on Dec. 15. Brown did not report that incident to police until detectives began investigating the shooting.

Melissa Brown called 911 about 4:50 a.m. Dec. 19 and said her husband was holding a burglary suspect in their backyard. She reported minutes later that the suspect had been shot, according to the sheriff’s office.

The shooting victim’s accomplice went home after the shooting, threw up and told his mother that his friend had been shot when they were trying to break into a home. She called police, and detectives spoke with the boy at the Medical Lake police station.

Both boys have yet to resolve their charges in juvenile court. A suspected accomplice in the Dec. 15 burglary, Mitchell A. Swift, 18, is charged in Spokane County Superior Court with residential burglary.

Brown denied having marijuana plants in the room during the first break-in, but one of the suspects said he stole marijuana, paraphernalia and two plants then and went back Dec. 19 to steal more.

The Browns have not been arrested and voluntarily appeared in court Wednesday. They have until Friday at 5 p.m. to be booked and released at the Spokane County Jail.

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