10:11 AM CST on Tuesday, March 4, 2008
By SCOTT GOLDSTEIN and RICHARD ABSHIRE / The Dallas Morning News
The chain of events that left a teen shot near his friend's house and a pediatric nurse dead in a car accident late Saturday in Kaufman County began with the innocent curiosity of two boys.
About 10:30 p.m., 16-year-old Devin Nalls and 15-year-old Brandon Robinson ventured out of the Nalls home along State Highway 243 and into the darkness to check out a noisy party nearby. They hopped a fence around the Frosch property next door, but as they passed the elderly couple's front porch, Brandon noticed something.
"Hey, the blinds are moving," Brandon said to his best friend, just before a gunshot pierced a front window of the home, striking Brandon under his left arm.
Devin's mother, June Nalls, 41, died in a car accident minutes later while driving the boys to the hospital. A man who had been drinking drove his vehicle into her lane, striking her head-on, police said.
Brandon survived the car accident and the shooting that preceded it, and police haven't arrested W.C. Frosch, the 74-year-old man who fired the shot because he said he feared the boys were going to break into his home.
Police said Monday that under the state's "castle law," passed last year, Mr. Frosch may not have committed a crime.
The law permits the use of deadly force to protect property if the property owner reasonably believes such force is needed to prevent a serious offense, including burglary. Police and the boys' families maintain they were not committing such a crime when the shot was fired.
"We kept hearing music, so we wanted to go check it out," Brandon Robinson, 15, said. The case will be referred to a grand jury, meaning criminal charges against Mr. Frosch are possible, police said.
Shannon Edmonds, director of governmental relations for the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, said there are several Texas self-defense and defense-of-property laws other than the castle law that could come into play in this case.
Still, Mr. Edmonds said, this case "sounds like it could be an interesting test of the new law."
He said several factors could play a role in the decision whether to charge Mr. Frosch. Among the possible factors, he said, is the time of night, Mr. Frosch and his wife's suspicion that a burglar could be targeting yard-sale merchandise and the fact that the Frosches might have already been concerned about a loud party going on next door.
"I think what a grand jury is going to do is look at the totality of the circumstances in determining whether or not he acted reasonably," Mr. Edmonds said.
To the Frosches, the shooting was justified.
Mr. Frosch did not return a call seeking comment, but his wife, Jerry, defended her husband's actions Monday.
The two teens were stealthily crossing the Frosches' yard, trying not to be seen by the partygoers, when Mr. Frosch heard something, told Mrs. Frosch to call 911 and armed himself with a handgun.
"They were messing around our house," Mrs. Frosch said. "They were right at the window."
Mr. Frosch apparently fired when he looked out a window and saw someone just outside.
"Physical evidence shows that he was within 2 or 3 feet of the window when he was shot," said Sgt. Bryan Francis, a Kaufman County sheriff's spokesman. "He had most likely stopped there, based on all the statements."
Sgt. Francis said Mr. Frosch told deputies that he thought the person he saw was going to break into his house.
Mrs. Frosch said they occasionally have garage sales at the house, and during the 911 call that followed the shooting she notes her suspicions about a prowler's possible motive.
"Well we just had a garage sale today," she said, according to a recording of the call released Monday.
There were no items of value in the Frosches' yard the night of the shooting, and Sgt. Francis said there is no indication of any burglaries at the home.
Minutes after Mrs. Frosch called police, another call was placed to 911 regarding a terrible car accident along State Highway 243, about a half-mile east of the Kaufman city limits.
Ms. Nalls, 41, died instantly in the collision while driving her son and Brandon to the hospital.
On Monday, Brandon Robinson recalled the events that twice could have killed him and left his best friend without a mother.
"We kept hearing music, so we wanted to go check it out," Brandon said in a telephone interview from his bed at Parkland Memorial Hospital. "We walked across this dude's yard. I heard the window blinds move, and I told Devin. ... I heard gunfire, and we ran."
Not realizing Brandon was hit, both boys darted back to Devin's home. Brandon's arm went numb. He looked in a bathroom mirror and saw the blood.
The boys woke Ms. Nalls, who instinctively rushed them to her pickup and headed for the hospital.
Ms. Nalls was killed minutes later in the accident, which also ruptured Brandon's spleen. Devin suffered minor injuries and was released from the hospital Sunday.
Agustin Renteria, 27, of Kaufman was driving the 1996 Ford that hit Ms. Nalls' truck. He was charged with failure to stop and render aid and was being held at the Kaufman County Jail in lieu of $75,000 bail, said Sgt. Bryan Francis, a Kaufman County sheriff's spokesman.
For Brandon's father, Donald, the shooting that ultimately put Ms. Nalls on the road Saturday night was a senseless act.
"I believe in the right to bear arms," Mr. Robinson said. "But usually with a little more respect. What's worth more: private property or human life?"