Tulsa Shooting Tests State's Stand Your Ground Law

Friday, January 3rd 2020, 9:07 am
By: Grant Hermes

A Tulsa judge will decide whether a man who shot a process server is covered under the state’s stand your ground law, testing the often-controversial law and potentially sending a ripple effect through the state’s slate of self-defense laws.

Former candidate for governor Christopher Barnett, 36, could be seen on video in July of 2019 in a heated argument with a process server on his front step. The silent video shows the pair exchange words before the server begins to leave. While leaving the two continue to argue. A plume of smoke suddenly fills the frame while the server doubles over and runs off Barnett’s front lawn.

Barnett claims the shooting was justified under the state’s stand your ground law, because he thought he saw a gun in the server’s front pocket and feared for his life.

According to the law, "A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force."

The server is not seen attacking or advancing toward Barnett in the video, so it’s unclear whether his defense will work.

Oklahoma's stand your ground law isn't often tested in courts and the ruling could effect how the state’s suit of self-defense laws are used in court. Those laws include stand your ground, but also the castle doctrine, which is meant to protect homes or businesses and the so-called make my day law which allows bystanders to get involved in situations where they perceive their life or someone else's life to be in danger.

The ruling comes just days after stories of a shooter inside a Texas church was shot and killed by an armed congregant and a man in New York who attacked another man in the home of a rabbi was beaten back with a folding table have made national news. Both have reignited debate over how far Americans should be allowed to go to protect themselves.

Barnett’s case also comes after Oklahoma recently passed one of the more expansive open carry laws in the country. The law allows Oklahomans to carry firearms without training or certification.

The 36-year-old is also accused in two felony cases for allegedly threatening a mass shooting at the University of Tulsa. Prosecutors say Barnett was also well acquainted with process servers and say they expect a fair ruling from the judge. 

This is a developing story.