Indy man won’t be charged for killing intruder; burglary suspects to face murder charges

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Prosecutors in Marion County have decided a man who killed a burglar during a home break-in will not face criminal charges.

The shooting is protected by Indiana's self-defense statute, commonly referred to as the state's stand-your-ground law.

The shooter is the son of the homeowner and was being asked to protect the property.  Prosecutors say the shooting appears to be a justifiable case of self-defense.

The incident began when a 59-year-old woman reported a burglary at a home she owns in the 6400 block of Winslow Drive on the south-east side. That home, according to court documents, was recently sold with the closing date scheduled for Friday.

On Thursday prosecutors believe Ricky Cartmel pried open the front door just after sunset and was was shot and killed by a homeowner’s son.

“It’s important to see how much the homeowner did before he shot.  He had a friend call 911.  He yelled out warnings.  He told them to go away and only all that, he resorted to lethal force.  It’s exactly how stand your ground should work,” said attorney John Tompkins.

Attorney Tompkins isn’t connected to the case, but agrees with the decision not to charge the homeowner’s son with a crime.

But two suspects who survived the shooting Thursday — identified by police as brothers Benjamin Gardner, 47, and Kevin Lemaster, 40 — are now facing two counts of burglary and one count of felony murder.

“I think the prosecutor did a very good job not charging anything against the homeowner, but the decision to charge felony murder is questionable,” said Tompkins.

According to the affidavit, Gardner confessed the three men broke into the home the day before and returned to steal a hot water heater when they were confronted by the gunman.

Felony murder allows suspects to be held accountable for deaths that occur during crimes, but the legislature and courts have begun to restrict its use in recent years.

“The courts have said look at what the people you’re charging actually did.  If they didn’t act like killers, don’t charge them like killers,” said Tompkins.  “You don’t want to send a message to future burglars that they might as well take a gun and shoot people, because even if they don’t take a gun they’re going to be treated by the prosecutor like they did.”

One of the defendants made his initial court appearance Wednesday, the other is due in court Thursday.

Both men are being held without bond.

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