September 5, 2007
Musician Is Killed for Banging on a Door
By GRETEL C. KOVACH
DALLAS, Sept. 4 — A Texas rock musician was shot to death here early Monday by a neighbor who fired through a closed door, thinking he was scaring off a burglar.
The incident occurred just three days after a new law took effect strengthening the right of Texans to use deadly force to protect themselves and their property.
The musician, Jeffrey Carter Albrecht, 34, a keyboardist with Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians and the Dallas rock band Sorta, was shot in the head after he startled a man and his wife about 4 a.m. by pounding and kicking at their back door, the police said. Mr. Albrecht had just assaulted his girlfriend,
who lives next door and had locked him out of her house, the police said.
The neighbor, who has not been identified by the police, was awakened by his wife’s screams that someone was breaking into their home, according to the police report. The man yelled for the person to go away, but when the pounding continued, he fired through the top of the door.
Mr. Albrecht, who was about 6-foot-5, was struck in the head.
The police said the case would be referred to a grand jury for review. Mr. Albrecht’s mother, Judith Albrecht, would not say whether she thought the neighbor should be charged with a crime.
“I think he was frightened, and I do think he could have made another choice,” Ms. Albrecht said. “I understand there are a lot of bad people, but Carter was not one of them.”
Mr. Albrecht’s girlfriend, Ryann Rathbone, said she believed he was having a bad reaction to the combination of alcohol and an antismoking drug they both had taken for a week. The drug had given them hallucinatory dreams, Ms. Rathbone said.
“This was not a drunken rage,” she said.
“Carter would never have hurt me, ever,’’ Ms. Rathbone said.
Texas has protected the right to “stand your ground” and use deadly force to protect oneself at home without first trying to retreat since 1995. And a law that took effect on Saturday expanded that so-called “castle doctrine” to apply to public spaces.
The law also expanded civil immunity and could make it more difficult for the Albrecht family or relatives of those killed in similar incidents in Texas to win a wrongful-death suit, said James Dark, executive director of the Texas State Rifle Association, which lobbied for the new law.
“These duty-to-retreat laws provide legal protection for those who are out committing criminal acts,” Mr. Dark said. Under the new Texas law, “the protection of the law falls on those who obey the law not those who violate the law.”
Texas is one of 19 states with a castle doctrine self-defense law, according to the National Rifle Association.
Marsha McCartney, president of the North Texas chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, called Mr. Albrecht’s death “one more gun tragedy.”
“I’m sure the man who did the shooting feels terrible about it,” Ms. McCartney said, “but legally in Texas he can do exactly what he did because he feels frightened.”
Borris Miles, a Democratic state representative from Houston and a former schools police officer, opposed the legislation, which was signed into law in March.
In July, Mr. Miles confronted a robber at his home construction site and shot him in the leg. No charges were filed, but he said he still opposed the new law.
“We have a right to defend ourselves in our home. I support that and I always will,” Mr. Miles said. But the law went too far, he said, by expanding the right to use deadly force in the workplace and one’s automobile.