18 seconds into the 911 call reporting a burglary at his neighbor's home, 61 year old Pasadena Texas resident, Joe Horn, said to the dispatcher, "I've got a shotgun, uh, do you want me to stop 'em"…after seven minutes of trying to convince Horn to remain in his home and wait for police, Horn finally told the dispatcher, "Well, here it goes buddy, you hear the shotgun clicking and I'm going." …His next words were "boom, you're, dead"…and with that three shots were fired, and two men lay dead outside of Horn's home.
Killed in the incident in the 7400 block of Timberline were Miguel Antonio DeJesus, 38, and Diego Ortiz, 30, both of Houston.
Each had a minor previous brush with the law. Records show DeJesus was charged with failure to identify himself to a police officer in July 2004. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 days in jail. Ortiz was charged with possession of marijuana in July 2005, but it was later dismissed.
The chilling 911 tape reveals a man intent on murder from the start, but Horn's defense will most likely revolve around a new state law that may allow people to use deadly force to protect neighbors' property.
"If you see someone stealing your neighbor's property, you can get involved and help to stop it," said Sandra Guerra Thompson, a law professor at the University of Houston Law Center.
The statutes that allow people to use deadly force to stop a burglary appear to require that the incident be occurring at night, said Craig Jett, a Dallas criminal defense attorney and president of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer's Association.
"It can't be during the day," Jett said.
Experts said that a grand jury may sympathize with Horn. Some people believe that you should be able to protect your neighborhood, said Anthony Osso, a Houston criminal defense attorney.
Osso said that Horn's defense might be that he wanted to prevent the robbers from leaving until police arrived, but they tried to flee and he shot them.
Although some are heralding Horn as a vigilante hero, the 911 tape reveals a different story. Horn, although clearly agitated about the two Black men he saw enter his neighbors house through a rear window, at no time demonstrates that he has any reason to fear for his own safety or believes he's in any danger. In fact throughout most of the conversation Horn is clearly trying to convince the dispatcher that he should give him "permission" to take things into his own hands…repeatedly telling the dispatcher that he knows the law and has the right to take action and "defend himself"
Joe Horn, 61, told the dispatcher what he intended to do: Walk out his front door with a shotgun.
"I've got a shotgun," Horn said, according to a tape of the 911 call. "Do you want me to stop them?"
"Nope, don't do that - ain't no property worth shooting somebody over, OK?" the dispatcher responded.
"Hurry up man, catch these guys, will you? 'Cause I'm ain't gonna let 'em go, I'm gonna be honest with you, I'm not gonna let 'em go. I'm not gonna let 'em get away with this ----."
Shortly after, Horn said he sees one suspect was standing in front of his house, looking at it from the street.
"I don’t know if they’re armed or not. I know they got a crowbar 'cause that's what they broke the windows with. ... Man, this is scary, I can't believe this is happening in this neighborhood."
He gets more agitated. The dispatcher asks if he can see the suspects but they had retreated into the target's house, out of view: "I can go out the front [to look], but if I go out the front I'm bringing my shotgun with me, I swear to God. I am not gonna let 'em get away with this, I can't take a chance on getting killed over this, OK? I'm gonna shoot, I'm gonna shoot."
"Stay inside the house and don’t go out there, OK?" the dispatcher said. "I know you're pissed off, I know what you're feeling, but it's not worth shooting somebody over this, OK?"
"I don’t want to," Horn said, "but I mean if I go out there, you know, to see what the hell is going on, what choice am I gonna have?
"No, I don’t want you to go out there, I just asked if you could see anything out there."
The dispatcher asks if a vehicle could be seen; Horn said no. The dispatcher again says Horn should stay inside the house.
Almost five minutes into the call, police had not arrived.
"I can’t see if [the suspects are] getting away or not," Horn said.
Horn told the dispatcher that he doesn’t know the neighbors well, unlike those living on the other side of his home. "I can assure you if it had been their house, I would have already done something, because I know them very well," he said.
Dispatcher: "I want you to listen to me carefully, OK?"
Dispatcher: "I got ultras coming out there. I don't want you to go outside that house. And I don't want you to have that gun in your hand when those officers are poking around out there."
Horn: "I understand that, OK, but I have a right to protect myself too, sir, and you understand that. And the laws have been changed in this country since September the First and you know it and I know it."
Dispatcher: "I understand."
Horn: "I have a right to protect myself ..."
Dispatcher: "I'm ..."
Horn: "And a shotgun is a legal weapon, it's not an illegal weapon."
Dispatcher: "No, it's not, I'm not saying that, I'm just not wanting you to ..."
Horn: "OK, he's coming out the window right now, I gotta go, buddy. I'm sorry, but he's coming out the window. "
Dispatcher: "No, don't, don't go out the door, Mister Horn. Mister Horn..."
Horn: "They just stole something, I'm going out to look for 'em, I'm sorry, I ain't letting them get away with this ----. They stole something, they got a bag of stuff. I'm doing it!"
Dispatcher: "Mister, do not go outside the house."
Horn: "I'm sorry, this ain't right, buddy."
Dispatcher: "You gonna get yourself shot if you go outside that house with a gun, I don't care what you think."
Horn: "You wanna make a bet?"
Dispatcher: "Stay in the house."
Horn: "There, one of them's getting away!
Dispatcher: "That's alright, property's not something worth killing someone over. OK? Don't go out the house, don't be shooting nobody. I know you're pissed and you're frustrated but don't do it."
Horn: "They got a bag of loot."
Dispatcher: "OK. How big is the bag?" He then talks off, relaying the information.
Dispatcher: "Which way are they going?"
Horn: "I can't ... I'm going outside. I'll find out."
Dispatcher: "I don't want you going outside, Mister..."
Horn: "Well, here it goes buddy, you hear the shotgun clicking and I'm going."
Dispatcher: "Don't go outside."
On the tape of the 911 call, the shotgun can be heard being cocked and Horn can be heard going outside and confronting someone.
"Boom! You're dead!" he shouts. A loud bang is heard, then a shotgun being cocked and fired again, and then again.
The complete tape of the 911 call can be heard here:
Horn released a statement through his attorney stating that, "The events of that day will weigh heavily on me for the rest of my life. My thoughts go out to the loved ones of the deceased." His attorney, Tom Lambright, claims that, "When he was in my office yesterday, he was crying uncontrollably"
Lambright says devastated doesn't even begin to describe the 61-year-old, that he only fired because he feared for his life. When Horn went outside, Lambright says, the men were on Horn's property about 15 feet from his front door.
"He didn't know what they were gonna do, but he was petrified at that point," said Lambright.
Diamond Morgan, the widow of one of Horn's victims, Diego Ortiz, Sr., sees it differently. ""If you were afraid for your life, then why the hell did you come outside," said Morgan.…that's a question many will be asking …. And hopefully the grand jury that will hear this case will hear in that 911 conversation what any right thinking person does. …a man intent upon killing … a man who could not be deterred by any force of reason …. A criminal ….a vigilante … a murderer.