Montcalm County Prosecutor Andrea Krause said in a press release this week that Greenville resident Jess Braman was justified in using deadly force when he shot and killed a naked stranger that broke into his home and would not leave on September 6, 2014.
The Greenville Department of Public Safety received a report at 6:55 a.m. of a naked man running through a Greenville neighborhood who was attempting to gain entry into a home at 303 West Grove Street. Officers began to look for the man. At 7:23 they got the info that the man was inside a home at 105 South Barry (Braman’s address). That was followed by the info that Braman had shot him.
Jess Braman had gotten up at 6:40 a.m. and let his dog out the back sliding door, and did not relock it. Soon after, his neighbor, Chris Harrington, told Braman that his (Harrington’s) wife had seen a naked man in their backyard. Braman then went upstairs to take a shower. When he came down he found the naked stranger on his couch, covered in a blanket. Braman went up and got his 17-year-old stepson and asked him if it was a friend of his, and the teen told him no. Braman then got a shotgun from an upstairs closet and loaded it.
Braman woke up the man, John Russell, 27, and told him several times to get out of his house. Braman also yelled out his front door for his neighbor Harrington to call the police and come over to his house. Harrington arrived and entered Braman’s home. Harrington, along with Braman, told Russell to get out of the house. Russell made another statement at that time that “There ain’t three cops out there that can go toe-to-toe with me and take me down.”
Russell reportedly stood up and went at Braman and Harrington. Braman raised the shotgun and Russell grabbled the barrel and started to pull, and Braman fired. He also said that when Russell stood up he immediately noted that Russell was bigger than him and felt he would be overpowered. Braman also feared for his family and did not want to see anything happen to them. (Living in the home with Braman was his wife and four teens. All were home at the time.) He also stated that Russell had a look in his eye that put him in fear.
Police learned that Russell had been at the bar the night before, and had become very intoxicated. He later went to a friend’s house where he knocked over a TV, punched holes in the wall, threw tables around and broke a fish tank. He was described as out of control. He later left the home, and was seen by a homeowner between 3 and 4 a.m. stumbling around. A couple of friends were trying to talk him into going back with them. He reportedly fell and hit his head, and stumbled down a hill, possibly into a swamp. Police later found his clothes there.
The toxicology report showed his ethanol level at .26, and he tested positive for marijuana.
Krause said that even under the Self-Defense Act, self-defense is not justified simply on a belief that deadly force is needed to repel an attack. “Rather, the actor’s belief must be both honest and reasonable. The belief does not, however, have to be correct. Self-defense justifies the use of deadly force in response to an honest and reasonable belief that such force is required to prevent death or great bodily harm, even if that belief is in error.”
“The evidence in this matter is overwhelming that John Russell presented an immediate danger of death or great bodily harm to Jess Braman and Chris Harrington and Braman acted properly in self-defense,” said Krause. “Braman repeatedly told Russell to leave his home. Instead of leaving peacefully, Russell attempted to grab and/or push or pull the gun. Braman, fearing for his own life and that of his family and Harrington, especially in light of the perceived size difference between the men, fired one round into the chest of Russell killing him. Under these circumstances, Braman was justified in using deadly force against what would be perceived by any reasonable person as an imminent danger of death or great bodily harm.”