Bluffs Shooting: First-Degree Murder Or Self-Defense?

“I knew I should have called the cops, but I knew I didn't want to leave her in that situation and something just snapped and I was like I've got to protect her.”

Christopher Hyde

Thirty-two-year-old Chris Hyde calls it a nightmare and he couldn't wake up. In an interview at the Pottawattamie County Jail, Hyde said a drunken Chapin was physically mishandling a friend's daughter.

Hyde said the 44-year-old Chapin pulled the sleeping girl from a bedroom at Hyde's home near Apache and Comanche streets east of Lake Manawa just before 11:30 p.m., so Chapin and the woman visiting Hyde could have the bedroom.

According to Hyde, the girl had a look of distress in her eyes. That's when Hyde pulled out his .40-caliber Smith and Wesson semi-automatic handgun. “I shot one shot in the ceiling, one round in the floor and the third one was at him.” That third round hit Chapin in the head, killing him.

“Right afterwards, I had a moment of relief that I knew that he wasn't going to hurt her and after that it went to panic.” Hyde says it was self-defense. After firing the first shot, Chapin dropped the girl, turning toward Hyde.

“I pointed it at the floor and then I pointed it right at him and said don't do this, don't make me do it. You can just leave and that's when I knew that he was pretty much going to take the gun from me. And the way he was acting up, I don't know if he was on drugs, but he came up to me like people you see in the movies yeah and it was unreal. And I was like this is it and I got the gun and was like I'm not going to die over this.”

Hyde said as Chapin continued moving toward him. Hyde was backed into the kitchen. “And I felt like my life was in danger. I had the firearm and he was bigger than me and I just knew what he was capable of.”

Hyde then fired the fatal shot. “I'm not a killer. I know that I should have done things differently, but all I could think about at that time was to protect her.”

Hyde said he would gladly take a polygraph test to support his version of events. He said the girl was the only true witness to all of the events leading up to the shooting. The girl's mother ran to a back bedroom once the shots were fired.

A judge set Hyde's bond at $1 million. He's set to appear in court on March 18th.

Iowa's Castle Doctrine says it's your duty to retreat except if you're in your own home. But the Pottawattamie County Attorney says deadly force wasn't authorized in this situation because the victim was invited in. Iowa doesn't have a "Stand Your Ground" law which means a homeowner has the right to defend themselves without announcing their intent to use deadly force.

"I do know that talking with police, they feel comfortable with the charge and decision that was made," said Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber. "I feel pretty confident in my ability to look at all the evidence, and make a fair decision on our part."

Reneta Mack with Creighton University’s School of Law says it's a fine line because some may think it's justified in the heat of the moment, but a jury may not.

"So that's always the difficulty of self defense, putting yourself in the shoes of the person what they were perceiving at the time," Mack explained.

Authorities say the victim wasn't armed, and they'll continue to review the evidence.

A "Stand Your Ground” bill will be debated in the Iowa Legislature next week. Representative Mark Brandenburg says he supports it as a way to provide adequate protection for citizens. Nebraska doesn't have such law, either.

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