ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. (KTVI/CNN) - A 41-year-old man in Missouri faces charges for allegedly shooting a teenager in the leg, as police say the teen was fleeing the scene after breaking into the man’s car.
Charles Bams, 41, is charged with second degree assault and armed criminal action. He faces up to seven years in prison, if convicted.
Police say a group of teenagers were breaking into cars Monday night in Bellefontaine Neighbors, Missouri. One of the teens allegedly got inside a vehicle at Bams’ home.
Bams confronted the group, and they scattered.
“One of the kids that was on his property appeared to have reached for a weapon. He never saw a weapon. We never recovered a weapon. Because he felt that he was in fear, he pulled his weapon and fired several shots, striking a juvenile one time in the leg,” said Chief Jeremy Ihler of the Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Department.
Sam Alton, chief of staff for St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell, says the teen who was shot had run three to four houses away by the time he was hit.
Two other bullets hit a neighbor’s home, according to police.
Authorities say they empathize with St. Louis area residents who feel “under siege” by crime, but Bams’ response far outweighed the threat.
The same legal standards that apply to police apply to citizens, as well: deadly force may only be used when there is an imminent threat of harm.
“Use reasonable judgment. If you're not in a situation where you're in imminent danger, you have no real reason to use force. In this situation, it could have been better handled if the police were called. We don't want people to put themselves in situations where they have to make a judgment call like this,” Ihler said.
Neighbors, however, say Bams has a right to protect his property.
Bams was jailed but released without posting bond.
The teens who were allegedly breaking into cars do not yet face charges; though authorities are not ruling that out, saying the investigation is still active.