Homeowner who shot prowler in Grants Pass won't face charges

A Grants Pass homeowner who killed a prowler attempting to enter his home where his children were sleeping will not face criminal charges, the Josephine County District Attorney's Office decided today.

Charles Beaumont Buckman, of 958 W. Park St., shot and killed 32-year-old Matthew Durbin of Grants Pass after Durbin repeatedly tried to break into the Buckmans' house July 14.

"Mr. Buckman had a reasonable belief he was acting in self-defense of himself and his family," the DA's office said in a news release.

"The State does not believe it could disprove self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt."

Buckman's wife, Jeanine, called 911 at about 10:15 p.m. and said someone was going around the house banging on the windows and doors, including the window of the room where their children were sleeping. Her husband told dispatchers that "it sounded like there was a person or persons outside with a 'crazy' and 'ranting' voice." Charles Buckman then armed himself with a .40-caliber Smith and Wesson as he and his wife waited for police to arrive.

A man later identified as Durbin appeared at a sliding-glass door and began throwing himself against it, the DA's release said. Buckman told police he felt his family was being "hunted." A "petrified" Buckman fired two shots at Durbin, shattering the glass door and wounding Durbin in the left hand and the side of his chest, said Chief Deputy District Attorney Lisa Turner. Durbin headed across the yard toward the side of the house where the Buckmans' children were. Buckman followed him and fired six more shots at Durbin, hitting him three times in the right side and once in the left calf, Turner said.

Eight minutes after the 911 call, police arrived and found Durbin dead along the side of the Buckmans' house.

Turner said investigators don't know whether Durbin was trying to escape or was headed for the children's window. "We're looking at it from the perception of the victim at the time. ... What they were faced with at the time they made the decision (to use deadly force)," Turner said. 

"Under Oregon law, a person can use deadly force when he reasonably believes the other person is committing or attempting to commit a burglary in a home," the DA's release said. 

The DA noted that whether deadly force is justified is decided on a case-by-case basis.

Turner said Durbin was living out of his car and was parked at Tussing Park, which sits between the Rogue River and West Park Street. She said the Buckmans had had problems with transients on their property and the neighbors' property before.

The DA's office had not yet received a toxicology report on Durbin, but he had had prior convictions for methamphetamine possession, Turner said. She said no drugs were found on Durbin or in his car. Investigators don't know why Durbin was trying to get into the Buckmans' home, as the Buckmans did not know him.

Reach City Editor Cathy Noah at 541-776-4473 or by email at cnoah@mailtribune.com.

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