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Minn. homeowner charged in fatal shootings

Amy Forliti Associated Press

LITTLE FALLS, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota man was charged Monday with second-degree murder in the Thanksgiving Day shooting deaths of two teenage cousins he said had broken into his home.

Byron David Smith, 64, of Little Falls, told investigators he shot 17-year-old Nicholas Brady Schaeffel and 18-year-old Haile Kifer as they came downstairs into his basement workshop.

A criminal complaint says Smith told investigators he shot Schaeffel when the teen had partially descended the stairs, then fired again into the teen’s face as he lay on the floor looking at him.

“I want him dead,” the complaint quoted Smith telling an investigator.

He then described sitting down again in his chair, and in a few minutes, the second teen — Kifer — began walking down the steps. Smith said he shot her and she also fell down the stairs. He said he tried to shoot her again, and when his Mini 14 rifle jammed, she laughed at him.

Smith told investigators that made him mad: “If you’re trying to shoot somebody and they laugh at you, you go again,” he said, according to the complaint.

Smith said he then pulled out a .22-caliber revolver he was wearing and shot Kifer several times in the chest. He fired a final shot under her chin because she was still gasping for air a few minutes later, he said.

Smith called a neighbor the following day, Friday, to ask if the neighbor knew any good lawyers, according to the complaint. He later asked his neighbor to call the police.

Minnesota law allows a homeowner to use deadly force on an intruder if a reasonable person would fear they’re in danger of harm. Smith told investigators he was afraid the intruders might have a weapon.

Smith was due to make his first court appearance late Monday morning, and Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel planned to hold a news conference at 1 p.m. to disclose a fuller picture of what happened.

Smith’s brother, Bruce Smith, told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis that the incident was the eighth burglary at Byron Smith’s home in recent years.

The only report the Morrison County sheriff’s office has for a break-in at the home was for one on Oct. 27. It shows Byron Smith reported losing cash and gold coins worth $9,200, plus two guns worth $200 each, photo equipment worth over $3,000 and a ring worth $300. The Little Falls Police Department had no other records of burglaries at the home.

Bruce Smith declined to talk to an Associated Press reporter Monday outside his brother’s home in a secluded area north of Little Falls and near the Mississippi River. A makeshift barricade blocked the driveway and a board leaning against it bore the spray-painted words “Keep Out.”

Bruce Smith told the Star Tribune on Sunday that the break-ins had left his brother, a former State Department security officer, feeling vulnerable and afraid.

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