Springfield resident Gerald Roy Strebendt was arrested March 6th in the shooting death of David Paul Crofut. Police say Strebendt claimed self-defense during the initial investigation; however, a grand jury has disagreed with his claim. Strebendt allegedly claims that Crofut had been exhibiting road rage against him while driving northbound on Main Street in Springfield. After turning onto Bob Straub Parkway, the Crofut caused a collision. Both men exited their vehicles, and Crofut approached Strebendt with hostility causing Strebendt to shoot Crofut.
While it is unclear what the evidence suggests actually happened, this case of claimed self-defense brings into question what Oregon’s self-defense laws state.
When You Can Use Force
Oregon law states “a person is justified in using physical force upon another person for self-defense or to defend a third person from what the person reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force, and the person may use a degree of force which the person believes to be necessary for the purpose.” Naturally, there are exceptions to this such as if the person using self-defense provokes the encounter, and that deadly physical force can only be used if the person being targeted is committing a felony involving physical force, burglary, or is about to use unlawful physical force themselves.
The key thing to notice about that law is the term ‘reasonably’. This term, when used in law, refers to how a jury would perceive the action. This can be a difficult concept, as a jury isn’t involved in the situation, doesn’t have the adrenalin going, and therefore is seeing the situation much differently than you are.
Stand Your Ground
Oregon does have a stand your ground provision, which essentially means that you are not required to attempt to flee before deadly force is an option. This idea became national news not long ago in the case against George Zimmerman. Because of the use of ‘reasonably’ in the law, though, it is generally a good idea to look at all other options before deadly force is used.
It’s important to note that where our laws differ from the now famous Florida ‘stand your ground’ laws is that our provision isn’t granted by the legislature, but rather by case law(law stemming from judge interpretation of the law). This is important because case law is not entirely binding. Any case brought before a judge can end up resulting in different case law being set into place.
When all is said and done, the key principle to keep in mind is that deadly force in self-defense should be your last option. If you’re able to run away safely, or use less-lethal defense tactics, it is a good idea to do so rather than putting your freedom at risk, in the hands of a jury.