January 6, 2012 in Nation/World

Young mom lauded for killing intruder

Rene Lynch Los Angeles Times
 
Associated Press photo

Sarah McKinley, 18, sits with her 3-month-old son Justin on the couch of her mobile home in Blanchard, Okla., on Wednesday.
(Full-size photo)

Some might call it a case of swift Oklahoma justice for at least one of two intruders – both reportedly high on prescription drugs – who tried to break into a young widow’s home on New Year’s Eve.

Sarah McKinley, 18, calmly used a shotgun to shoot and kill one of the men when he forced his way through the front door of her mobile home and past a sofa she had used to barricade it. Now, the second man is facing first-degree murder charges, and McKinley is being hailed as a hero for doing what she believed she had to do to protect herself and her 3-month-old son, Justin.

The two men were reportedly looking for drugs – most likely painkillers – that they believed might have been left behind by McKinley’s husband, who died of lung cancer on Christmas Day.

McKinley will not face charges in connection with the case, which is garnering headlines around the world, because there appears to be little confusion about the facts of the case. Much of her ordeal was captured in a recording of the 911 call in which she asked for help – and also asked for permission to shoot if necessary.

“There’s a guy at my door and I’m here by myself with my infant baby. Can I please get a dispatcher out here immediately?” McKinley asks in a voice that is both steady, but tinged with emotion. Grady County dispatcher Diane Graham asks McKinley whether her doors are locked. Her steely answer: “Yes. I’ve got two guns in my hand. Is it OK to shoot him if he comes in my door?”

“I can’t tell you that you can do that,” Graham answers, “but you do what you have to do to protect your baby.”

Justin Shane Martin, 24, of Blanchard, died clutching a knife in his gloved left hand, according to court records filed in Grady County District Court. His alleged accomplice, Dustin Louis Stewart, 29, also of Blanchard, later turned himself in to police.

Stewart later confessed to police that he and Martin “devised a plan to burglarize the residence” because Martin knew that “a resident of the home had recently died of cancer” and he “suspected narcotics may be located inside the residence,” according to an affidavit. Stewart also told police that he and Martin took the drug hydrocodone about 30 minutes before the planned break-in, according to the court records.

Grady County prosecutors said McKinley acted in self-defense.

“Our initial review of the case doesn’t indicate she violated the law in any way,” Assistant District Attorney James Walters told NewsOK. “He should have thought about it before he went into someone’s home.”

McKinley told NewsOK that she tried to hold off as long as she could, waiting for police to arrive, while Martin kept pounding on the front door. At one point, she gave her son a bottle to keep him from crying too loud – and possibly alerting the intruders to her specific location.

“I didn’t want to give away my position in the house; I wanted to see him first,” she said of the intruders during an interview with NewsOK.

But about 21 minutes later, with no law enforcement officer in sight, Martin pushed his way in the door.

“I was standing in the bedroom doorway with a shotgun in my hand … when he did come in the door … I told 911 I was going to shoot and I did. And he just kind of fell over the couch.”

She said she feels bad – but has no regrets.

“I felt like what I did was the best decision for my son and I. Obviously when someone breaks into your house with a deadly weapon, they’re not here for anything good.”

The public has been supportive of McKinley, to say the least. A sampling from stories posted online about the incident: “Good for her.” “Glad she survived and the intruder got his ‘just reward.’ ” “Give her the highest award for valor.” “Good on you girl.”

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