On November 22, 2012, a set of chilling self-defense deaths occurred in Minnesota when Byron David Smith hid in his basement while two teenager broke into his home. He lured them downstairs and shot them both at point blank range while recording the entire thing. Headlines reading: "Man Murders Teens Trespassing In His Home," had only covered a small portion of this dense story. The facts of the Smith case aren't cut and dried. The full story shows a man who believes that he was being terrorized by the future of a slowly deteriorating country. In taking out the two teens, Smith believed that he was doing his town a favor.
While there is no arguing that the teens breaking into someone's home were guilty, Smith's actions led to a series of questions about what self-defense really means. But rather than applaud the 64-year-old retiree for cleaning up the streets of smalltown Minnesota, a jury swiftly voted to put him behind bars for the rest of his life.
Byron David Smith Recorded Himself Shooting Two Teens
On November 22, 2012 - Thanksgiving Day - Byron David Smith set up a digital audio recorder in his basement while he sat in waiting while cousins Haile Kifer, 18, and Nicholas Brady, 17, broke into his house. As they made their way downstairs, Smith shot them one by one, like a hunter in a deer blind.
While Smith waited for the teens to arrive, he rehearsed what he would say when he spoke to the police, even going to so far as to pretend to ask for a lawyer. When the teens finally begin making their way to the basement where he was hiding, the recording becomes a gruesome listen.
During and directly after, Smith can be plainly heard giving a monologue about how he did his "civic duty" and saying that bad people come from bad families. The most chilling part of the recording comes after Smith has already shot Kifer multiple times. Before he can release the ultimate strike, his gun jams. Smith apologizes before administering what he described as "a good clean finishing shot."
He Waited A Full Day To Call The Cops
Smith did not call the police after he ended the teens in the basement of his home; he decided to wait until the next day. He reasoned that the police would be enjoying Thanksgiving with their families, and he didn't want to disturb them.
This kind of logic speaks to the heart of Smith's actions. According to his official police interviews, he thought that he was doing the world a favor by extinguishing these two teens and felt that the police wouldn't want to deal with something so low. After Smith compared the two slain teens to "vermin" on his recording, it was obvious to authorities he thought everyone would agree with how he handled the situation.
Smith Set A Trap To Take Out The Teens
Rather than try to contact the police and have them handle the case, the ex-security engineer for the US State Department decided to take the law into his own hands. He ended up devising a plan that would lead him on a course towards his eventual incarceration. To ensure that Kifer and Brady would break into his home on Thanksgiving, Smith had to make sure that it looked like no one was home.
To do this, he moved his truck out of the area and returned to lie in wait. After making sure the house seemed empty, he snuck down to the basement where he waited for the teens to enter. In a further show of pre-meditation, he sat with a bottle of water, energy bars, a book to pass the time, and two guns.
Smith Claimed That He Acted In Self-Defense
During the trial, it came out that Smith not only believed that he did the right thing when he hid in his basement so he could take out the two teens, but he thought he was doing it in self-defense. His claim sparked a debate about Castle Doctrine and whether Smith had overstepped the limits of defending himself.
Castle Doctrine essentially says that you can act by any means necessary to defend yourself when someone breaks into your home, but if you pre-meditate a defense, things become murky.
The jury in Smith's case only took three hours to convict his actions as premeditated and sentence him to life in prison without parole. Defense Attorney Steve Meshbesher believed that the jury only saw a myopic view of the case because they weren't allowed to hear about the deceased's prior record with the police.