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May 2009 -- Total Criminal Defense (US)

Murder Charges for Man Who Defended His Home

By: Gerri L. Elder

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Ryan Frederick is currently behind bars in Chesapeake City Jail in Virginia for the shooting death of a police officer on January 17, 2008. He is charged with first-degree murder.

Normally you'd think that a person who shoots and kills a police officer might deserve to spend time behind bars, but Frederick's case is a bit different. The shooting happened in his own home during what Frederick believed to be a home invasion.

Three days before police began breaking down Frederick's door to enter his home on a drug warrant, Frederick's home had been broken into and his belongings rifled through, according to an online Reason Magazine story.

When Frederick's dogs began barking and he heard someone breaking through his front door, he grabbed a gun that he kept for home protection. As an officer attempted to enter the home through one of the lower door panels, Frederick fatally shot him.

Frederick is 28 years old. He worked for a soft drink merchandiser before his arrest. Friends, neighbors and co-workers reportedly have nothing but kind words to say about him. He has no prior criminal record, although he has conceded that he and his friends have smoked marijuana recreationally. There is no evidence that he was ever growing or dealing marijuana or any other drug.

Despite the lack of any criminal record and the fact that the shooting was a tragic accident, Paul Ebert, the special prosecutor assigned to the case, has indicated he may elevate the charge to capital murder so that the state may seek the death penalty against Frederick.

The drug warrant that brought the police to Frederick's home was based on faulty information received from a confidential informant. The informant told police that Frederick was growing marijuana in his garage and that several marijuana plants, growing lights, irrigation equipment and other gardening supplies had been seen on his property.

Frederick has been an avid gardener, so it is true that he had gardening supplies on his property. However, no evidence was ever collected to indicate that he was growing marijuana. The only marijuana found at Frederick's home was a small useable amount that under any other circumstances may have resulted in a charge of misdemeanor drug possession.

One of the plants that Frederick owned was a Japanese maple tree. When the leaves of this tree are green, they may resemble marijuana leaves. This may have been something that confused the police informant. The Chesapeake Police Department apparently did not investigate the claims of their informant before obtaining the no-knock warrant to search Frederick's home for drugs.

After the fact, the pieces seem to fall together. The police informant said that he had been inside Frederick's home three days prior to the execution of the drug warrant. That seems to give every indication that the police informant is the person who broke into Frederick's home. This person was likely arrested for some other crime and decided to strike a deal by supplying the police with faulty information.

As a result of this nightmarish situation, Ryan Frederick sits in jail while the prosecution attempts to find a way to elevate the charges against him.

Never mind that cops were breaking his door down after dark just days after their informant had likely broken into the home.

Never mind that Frederick was found not to be engaging in any activity that warranted the police to be at his home in the first place.

An officer is unfortunately dead and the prosecutor wants to pursue what he perceives as justice, facts be damned.

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