Exchange student killed in ‘garage hopping’ prank

MISSOULA, MT (CNN) – A Montana homeowner will be arraigned Wednesday morning for shooting a German exchange student who illegally entered his garage.

Guns are a way of life in Montana and nearly every home has one. 17-year-old Diren Dede, a German exchange student, may never have known that, when, according to court documents, he pulled a teenage prank called garage hopping, slipping into the open garage of a stranger’s home to steal alcohol or other items.

Video above shows Dede seconds before the homeowner shot the unarmed teen to death. “It just never should have happened.” Dede’s American host family is angry that Markus Kaarma would fire blindly into his garage.

Kaarma and his partner, who have a 10-month old baby, had recently been burglarized twice and were on edge, according to his lawyer.

In Dede’s hometown of Hamburg, Germany, where legally owning a gun is next to impossible, bewilderment.

“For me personally…you’ve got to ask yourself what kind of laws do they have over there?” says Dede’s former soccer coach. He adds, “It sends chills down your spine.”

Kaarma’s lawyer believes Montana’s laws are on his client’s side. State law used to say individuals could lawfully use deadly force against an intruder who acted in a “violent, riotous or tumultuous manner.”

In 2009, the so-called castle doctrine was changed to say lethal force is allowed if an individual “reasonably believes” the action will “terminate unlawful entry.”

“Prior to 2009, it was the defendant’s burden. Now the state has the burden of proving that the defendant wasn’t justified.”

“Now the state has the burden of proving that the defendant wasn’t justified.”

Paul Ryan is Kaarma’s attorney and believes the rewritten law makes Kaarma’s action legal. “Nobody’s rejoicing that we have a 17-year-old exchange student who’s died as a result of this. At the same time it puts people on notice, to make sure you’re making right decisions that you’re not engaging in criminal activity, otherwise there’s going to be consequences.”

Montana State Representative Ellie Hill, a gun owner and a new mom, says the castle doctrine expansion comes at too high a price. On the heels of Dede’s death, she’s drafted a state bill to return the state law to its pre-2009 definition.

“What happened to him could have been prevented. We’re proud of our second amendment heritage out in the west, we’re proud to be gun owners; it’s ok to say that we want common sense back in our laws.”

Gun rights advocate Gary Marbut says the current law doesn’t need any changes. “Montana has some of the more lenient view of guns in the United States is that the way it should be?”

“It is. That’s consistent with our culture and our heritage and we appreciate and like our own culture and it works well for Montana people.”

This already is an international dispute and it will continue to pick up steam as the trial begins. The German consulate on the west coast sent a letter to the governor of Montana saying that under its national laws, it does allow state prosecutors to open up an investigation if a crime is committed to a German national, even if it’s overseas.

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