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Was killing neighbor breaking window of daughter's bedroom a crime?

Attorney says Castle Doctrine will likely prevent prosecution of homeowner

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Mandarin homeowner who police said shot and killed a 21-year-old neighbor on his property on before dawn Saturday could be protected from prosecution under the castle doctrine, a Florida law that gives a homeowner the right to use force against someone coming into their home.

Police identified the man killed at 3:19 a.m. Saturday at a home on Attrill Road, just off Old St. Augustine Road, as John Batten. They have not released the name of the man who fired the fatal shot, and the shooting is listed on the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office transparency site as "exceptionally cleared, justifiable."

Homicide detectives said the homeowner called 911 about a man banging on a window of his home.

A family member of the homeowner and a roommate of the victim said Batten lived across the street from where he was killed.

The homeowner's family member told News4Jax that Batten was breaking windows of the home, including one where the homeowner's 3-year-old daughter was sleeping. The family member said the homeowner called police several times before arming himself and shooting the man at the window.

Three taped-up windows can be seen at the home. The source said bloody handprints were left on the house.

Several neighbors said Batten frequently caused trouble and that police were called to the home where he lived many times. News4Jax has requested a calls-for-service report from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office for that home and the police report for Saturday's fatal shooting.

According to court records, a neighbor filed a stalking injunction against Batten in October. Batten was also arrested in October on charges of possession of open container in a motor vehicle, criminal mischief and disorderly intoxication. 

The homeowner was not arrested after Saturday morning's shooting. It will be up to the State Attorney's Office to determine if the shooting was justifiable or if there will be any charges.

Attorney Gene Nichols, who is not connected to this case, said the homeowner could be protected from prosecution under the castle doctrine, which gives someone in their own home the right to use deadly force against someone coming into their home.

"Once glass got broken and they were breaking through a window at night, the statute is most likely going to protect you," Nichols said. "And unless there something else we don’t know about the two of them ... I would be surprised if this individual got prosecuted."

The homeowner’s family member called Batten's death a tragic loss of life. The family is trying to decide if they feel safe living there anymore.