BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A Middleville man is dead after deputies say he tried to break into a home in Kent County and was shot by the homeowner.
The Kent County Sheriff’s Office says the 39-year-old suspect attempted to force himself inside of a home along 108th Street SW near Wilson Avenue in Byron Township just after midnight on Thursday.
That’s when the sheriff’s office says that’s when the homeowner shot and killed him.
The suspect was pronounced dead at the scene.
FOX 17 spoke to the homeowner, Alan Lenhart, who says he grabbed his gun, which he only uses for hunting on the family farm, and did something he never wanted to do. He took another man’s life.
Describing himself as a man of faith, the man says it’s never what he wanted to do. He says he wasn’t given a choice.
Investigators say Christopher Worth, the man accused of trying to break in, has a lengthy criminal record including more than one arrest for armed robbery.
The man who took his life says this is not something he takes lightly.
Alan Lenheart says he was asleep at home when a noise outside woke him and his wife up.
We’re told Worth had just fled the scene of an accident in Allegan County. He then crossed over into Kent County in what the sheriff’s office says could be a stolen car, before he crashed and needed a new ride.
‘He goes to the homeowners’ home, they hear a commotion at the car. They state that they see a gun on the suspect and there’s damage to the car,” the sheriff explained.
Lenhart went and got his hunting gun.
“I told him to go away, 'I have a shotgun on you,' and he kept coming,” Lenhart told FOX 17. “He started shooting at me.”
Lenhart made a difficult choice in a terrifying situation.
“My heart goes out to the family involved in this,” said Lenhart
It’s an experience only his faith can help him through.
“I’m a religious man, so it’s still tough,” Lenhart
The sheriff’s office says they believe this was a random person and a random incident, not a targeted crime.
The decision to use deadly force can be an agonizing one but, in certain circumstances, it is legal under Michigan's Self-Defense Act.
We talked with an attorney about what does and doesn't apply under that act.
"If you're in your home, where you have a legal right to be, and you're not engaging in any type of crime yourself, and somebody comes in, and you honestly believe that they're going to kill you, or rape you or seriously hurt you, then you're allowed to use deadly force in order to stop that from happening, and you have no duty to retreat, you have no duty to try to run to a different room to try to run out of the house," explained Sarissa Montague, a criminal defense lawyer with Levine & Levine.
Montague says it is ultimately up to the county prosecutor whether to issue charges.
That decision is based on the results of a police investigation.
If you have information that could help to move the investigation forward, please call the KCSO at 616-632-6125, or call Silent Observer at 616-774-2345 to report information safely and anonymously.