There is a reason homeowners can rarely afford to dispense mercy on an overnight invader: Criminal intruders tend to be the dangerous type. What homeowners don’t expect are law enforcers and prosecutors going after them for defending themselves and their loved ones.
Queens resident Joel Christopher Paul faced a home-intruder threat in the early hours of July 30, 2017. The 27-year-old was home in Springfield Gardens with his mother, brother and sister when someone attempted to break in. The intruder was Shamel Shauvo, 26, who had traveled north from Maryland after being named a suspect in a shooting there 10 days earlier.
Expecting a pizza delivery, Paul’s brother, Michael, 16, went to the door and discovered Shauvo trying to break in. Michael forced Shauvo to the surrounding area, and his mother called for help. Joel, adrenaline likely surging through his veins, answered the call — and brought a bat and knife to the confrontation.
By the time it was all over, Shauvo received the ultimate lesson in picking the wrong house. He died at Jamaica Hospital after being clubbed and stabbed. The confrontation had all the indications of a break-in gone wrong for the wanted man, and as one high-ranking police source told The Post, the response was justifiable.
Both brothers avoided arrest and remained home after the incident. But months later, Queens DA Richard Brown submitted the case to a grand jury, bringing ruin upon Joel, who has been charged with manslaughter.
A ham sandwich, as the saying goes, can be indicted in grand-jury proceedings completely overseen by prosecutors. But prosecutors shouldn’t have targeted Joel. The stress, expense and uncertainty of facing a first-degree manslaughter charge are devastating and can lead to an unjustified plea that could result in Joel going to prison.
Part of the trouble lies with New York’s “retreat doctrine.” A theory fit for law school classrooms, the doctrine holds Joel had a duty to run and hide if it was safe to do so. It’s an obligation Joel, like the vast majority of New Yorkers, had probably never heard of.