Alabama doesn't screw around.
I've missed this one until today. Apparently back in April, a teen burglary ring was working the fishing camps on Gravine Island as well as other businesses and residences in and around Baldwin County, Alabama. On April 15th, at 4AM, they were spotted by some neighbors who fired a couple of "warning shots" well away from the three burglars that they could see to scare them off. (The teens were also armed with a rifle, a pistol and a knife, per police investigators.) By sheer dumb luck, one of those shots hit a fourth burglar, Summer Moody, who was hiding in some bushes. The shooters rendered aid for her as best they could once they realized that she'd been hit but she died ten days later from her injuries. The Baldwin County District Attorney submitted the case to a Grand Jury and obtained felony murder indictments against the three surviving burglars under the doctrine that co-conspirators in a crime where a death occurs are held to be responsible for that death. The DA also decided not to charge the shooters as there was no intent to cause harm with the warning shots. Predictably, the family and friends of the dirtbag burglars are livid and their attorney has filed a lawsuit against the three shooters, the local police chief (who wasn't there), and the owner of the cabin that the punks were burglarizing. (He also wasn't there.)
All the stories that you could ever want about this case are compiled here:
Gravine Island Felony Murder case article compilation.
Personally, while I sympathize with the family of Summer Moody to an extent, I have to note that their daughter was engaged in a felony burglary with her boyfriend and his pals. That being the case, I don't think that these people should get a pay day out of raising a little thugette and turning her loose on the community. In a perfect world, there would be no lawsuits allowed by a plaintiff or their family in a case where the plaintiff is injured or dies as a result of criminal activity that they were engaged in.
Now this case should also stand as yet another example of why we don't fire warning shots in a self-defense situation. In a self-defense situation, you are allowed to use deadly force when you reasonably believe that your life or that of another is in immediate danger. That means that you shoot to stop the threat. If you just shoot into the air or the ground, what you're saying is "I didn't really feel quite that threatened yet." By doing so, you just negated your own legal justification for using the force at all. Many people have gone to jail for making that mistake. Part of defending yourself with a firearm is knowing and following the laws in your jurisdiction, and most jurisdictions today do not allow warning shots.
Fortunately for these three men, Alabama's laws are a bit more lax than most states when it comes to using deadly force. However they're now facing a million-dollar civil lawsuit. I wish them well, and I also hope that the three teens charged get convicted and pull down three nice Alabama-style prison sentences, the kind that see them behind bars for a long time.