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Killeen Case Involving Officer’s Death Could Test Texas’ ‘Stand Your Ground’ Laws

In 2014, Marvin Guy was asleep with his girlfriend when someone smashed in the windows to his apartment. Guy thought he was being robbed and fired his gun out the window. He didn’t know he was shooting at the police.

A SWAT team from the Killeen Police Department suspected Guy of selling drugs. He shot four policemen, one of whom was killed. Now Guy is on trial for murder, facing life in prison if convicted.

It’s a case that may test the bounds of Texas’ “stand your ground” laws, which allow people to use lethal force to defend themselves. Maurice Chana, a journalist at the Marshall Project, joined Texas Standard to discuss the case. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

Texas Standard: Did the police in Killeen give any warning before smashing in Guy’s windows? 

Maurice Chammah: We don’t fully know. We know that they did not knock. And I have heard indication that they did announce themselves. But of course, this was in the middle of the night or the early morning. And so it’s possible he was asleep and just didn’t hear them before the windows started coming in.

We’ve done a lot of reporting on these sorts of surprise raids. Some people describe a no-knock raid as potentially very dangerous for defendants and for law enforcement. Why do the police say they’re an important tool? 

Well, the police say that they need them to surprise people who may be selling drugs. And if they were to knock and announce themselves too much first, somebody could, you know, get rid of drugs, get rid of drug paraphernalia and hide evidence, basically, that would convict them in court.

But the problem is that that element of surprise can make it so that people don’t know that it’s the police smashing in their door. And increasingly, in a society where many people have firearms themselves, you see people shooting back and creating a deadly risk to law enforcement.

Well, yeah, there’s this idea in English common law, the castle doctrine, which has been expanded and many states have adopted what are called “stand your ground” laws, which is what we have in Texas, right?

That’s right. Yeah. And in addition to the laws that are on the books, you know, I just think there’s a widespread sense in Texas, especially in more rural areas, that people have a right to own firearms and to shoot them when they feel that their life is under threat.

So tell us a little bit about the defendant here, Marvin Guy. Is he invoking the the castle doctrine or stand your ground law?

He’s claiming that he was just defending himself, which we’ll see in court over the next couple of weeks how his lawyers play that – which of these kind of Texas laws they’ll invoke. Guy also admits that he had a criminal record and that he was not allowed to own the guns that he had.

And also castle doctrine, there can be an exception to that when you’re committing a crime. The police found approximately one gram of cocaine on his property or what they suspected was cocaine. And at this trial, over the next couple of weeks in Bell County, you’re going to see, I think, a lot of these details debated and discussed. And ultimately it’ll circle around this question of, you know, what happens to castle doctrine when it’s the police and did Guy, as he says, really not know that it was the police or did they give him enough warning that he should have known? 

Bell County obviously is not a huge urban center politically. Is that going to be a factor that this is playing out where it is?

I think absolutely. Conservative Americans tend to be the ones sort of most interested in supporting the police and tending to want to punish people who harm or kill police very harshly.

At the same time, these are parts of Texas, parts of the country where support for armed self-defense is probably strongest. So in the last few years, as Marvin Guy has been in jail awaiting trial, members of a Second Amendment rights organization, a gun club in town, have showed up at protests in his favor and sometimes even found common cause with the sort of Black Lives Matter activists that really oppose these no-knock police raids. So this case creates some really interesting political bedfellows.

And the jurors in this town are, you know, I’d be fascinated to be in that jury room and imagine how they’re kind of parsing these events based on their prior beliefs.

Depending on how things turn out with this trial, is it possible that we could be feeling the implications way beyond Bell County?

Yes, absolutely. You know, if he gets a life sentence, I think it will spark a lot of activist’s anger. Hundreds of thousands of people went into the streets in 2020 to protest the death of Breonna Taylor. And if one of these same raids leads to someone like Marvin Guy spending the rest of his life in prison for what he claims was self-defense, I think you could see a similar political reaction.

We know, actually, that more than 20 people like Marvin Guy have been arrested and the cases really come out in all different directions. So there are people now spending time in prison and you’re starting to see their cases get a little bit more attention from the media.

Source : Texas Standart