Self-Defense Shooting Article

January 3, 2010

Homeowner's family sticks by his side as he faces shooting charges

BY TAMMY STABLES BATTAGLIA

FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

http://www.freep.com/article/20100103/NEWS01/1030404/1318/Homeowners-family-sticks-by-his-side-as-he-faces-shooting-charges-

As they passed out flyers in the neighborhood around Tigh Croff's home on Detroit's east side Saturday, his family vowed to help defend him as he faces murder and firearm charges.

Croff's father, Charles Croff, 57, said his son's frustration about recent home break-ins led him on Monday to fire the gun he was licensed to carry, killing Herbert Silas.

Charles Croff said his son, 31, was fed up when he chased Silas from the back of his Manistique home. Police say Silas stopped running, turned to Tigh Croff and taunted him by asking, "What are you going to do -- shoot me?"

"How would you feel, when every time you look around, you're trying to do the right thing -- you work, come home, trying to be productive in society -- and something's taken from you all the time?" said Charles Croff of Southfield, a retired heavy equipment repairman who now works part-time for Southfield's Department of Public Works.

Nearly a dozen family members were at the home Saturday, packing up Tigh Croff's belongings and sealing the home while he sits in Wayne County Jail. They have established a legal defense fund at National City Bank.

Police have urged residents not to take criminal matters into their own hands.

Troy attorney John Freeman spent 14 years as a state and federal prosecutor in Detroit and New York before becoming a defense lawyer specializing in self-defense cases involving gun owners. He said without all the facts from police, it's too soon to know whether Croff's actions were justifiable.

Families drawn together by shootings

As Carolyn Stovall passed out flyers Saturday to raise money for her nephew's defense, she was startled to encounter another family whose lives were touched by violence on the same street on that same December night.

Police say Croff shot Silas dead at 12:30 a.m. Dec. 28. A few hours before and a few houses away, Stephen Pitts' 20-year-old sister was shot three times, allegedly by her boyfriend, Christopher Jenkins.

Jenkins is also charged with killing a man in her home, according to Detroit police spokesman John Roach.

Now both Croff and Jenkins sit in the Wayne County Jail charged with second-degree murder, scheduled for preliminary examinations Jan. 11.

With his sister now recovering in an area hospital, Pitts exchanged with Stovall a promise to pray for both families.

And he said he feels no sympathy for Silas, the man Croff is accused of shooting.

"I hate to be like that," Pitts said, as he took the flyer. "But you don't feel protected in your own home anymore."

As Croff's family drums up support, Silas' body still lies in the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office, no family members claiming it as of Saturday, officials there said.

Croff told police that his home had been broken into three times recently. Police said Wednesday that Croff filed a break-in report on Dec. 19.

"This is a matter that, under the facts, we believe needed to be charged, and we will let the judicial system take its course," Maria Miller, spokeswoman for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, said Saturday.

John Freeman, a Troy defense lawyer specializing in self-defense cases involving gun owners, said a person can be justified shooting an unarmed person under specific circumstances.

"As a defense attorney, I see two possible justifications: self-defense or the use of deadly force to make a citizen's arrest," said Freeman, who spent 14 years as a state and federal prosecutor in Detroit and New York.

Roach said Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans would not be able to comment on the case Saturday.

Last week, however, police officials warned residents frustrated with crime not to take matters into their own hands.

"We have to all take a step back and look at property versus life and how we value it," Assistant Police Chief Ralph Godbee said last week.

Manistique resident Michael Jackson, 56, said he was a crime victim last summer when he spotted thieves stealing baked goods out of the back of his delivery van parked on the street.

"A guy stuck a gun out at me over some cookies. What do you do?" Jackson said.