Officials explain when defending with force is OK

Holmen business owner protected under Wisconsin's Castle Doctrine

A business owner who shot an alleged shooter is not being charged because of Wisconsin self-defense laws.

Surveillance video shows owner of Gibbons Auto Service, Dave Gibbons, shooting 37-year-old Amy Zielke after he says she broke into his business in the town of Holland early Monday morning.

According to the La Crosse County district attorney, it was within his rights to do so.

“It appears to me that DA has made decision that property owner was defending himself, apparently wife was upstairs, his wife and property and under those circumstances, the Castle Doctrine comes in to play,” partner at La Crosse law firm Johns, Flaherty & Collins Cheryl Gill said.

According to Wisconsin’s Castle doctrine, or Wisconsin Statute 939.48, if someone unlawfully and forcibly enters another person’s property, the property owner can use deadly force if he or she has reason to believe that it was necessary to prevent great bodily harm.

Despite the law, there’s no clear cut answer for every situation.

“It’s absolutely a case by case thing,” Gill said.

“It’s all how the situation unfolds at that exact time and what that person perceives at that exact time,” La Crosse County sheriff’s deputy Brian Buckmaster said.

It’s important to think before pulling the trigger.

“If you in the eyes of the law, if you didn’t have their right to shoot someone, you could be charged with any number of felony convictions,” Buckmaster said. “The first thing you should think of is, ‘Do I really want to confront this person or do I want to let the police do their job? You need to think very hard about, ‘If I do confront this person, am I criminally and civilly label for what my actions are?'”

Zielke is being charged with burglary and concealing stolen property, and faces a maximum sentence of 12-and-a-half years in prison. However, as a repeat offender, the sentence could be increased by up to six years.

In Wisconsin, deadly force can be used if someone reasonably believes it’s necessary to protect oneself, but not just to protect property.

Self-defense laws vary from state to state.