No charges in killing of Va. intruder who thought ‘friends were pranking him’

surveillance video
Ring security video on the homeowner’s door catches Gerardo Espinoza coming from a pool party and ringing the bell of the Woodbine home. He was fatally shot by the homeowner who will not face charges. (Courtesy Howard County state’s attorney’s office)

A Howard County, Maryland, homeowner will not face charges for fatally shooting a man who prosecutors said probably went to the wrong house and thought his friends were playing a prank on him by intentionally locking him out.

Howard County State’s Attorney Rich Gibson said he will not press charges against Charles Dorsey, 56, who shot and killed 46-year-old Gerardo Espinoza on July 21.

Espinoza, who was visiting from Chantilly, Virginia, was at a pool party at his friend’s house and had been drinking when he knocked on Dorsey’s door at 1 a.m.

Prosecutors said that Espinoza got lost and thought that Dorsey’s house was his friend’s.

“He’s ringing the doorbell, asking to be let in. At first, it’s calm and it’s jovial on the part of Mr. Espinoza, but it rapidly escalates. It is my belief that Mr. Espinoza thought his friends were pranking him,” Gibson said.

Espinoza yelled threats and used profanity to try to gain access, which Gibson said is likely because he thought his friends were intentionally locking him out of the Woodbine home. The residence has the same fence and pool as his friend’s.

Investigators said that the two homes were connected by two driveways, and a wrong turn could easily have landed Espinoza at the wrong address, especially given that he did not know the area.

It didn’t help, Gibson said, that Espinoza was under the influence of alcohol. A toxicology report later found that Espinoza’s blood alcohol concentration was 0.22, which means that earlier in the night it would have been three times the legal limit, Gibson said.

Despite Dorsey’s calls for him to stop, a doorbell video caught Espinoza jiggling and pushing on the door in an attempt to force his way into the house.

Dorsey’s wife called 911, but tells dispatchers she thought the man left; so police did not respond to the house but rather begin canvassing the neighborhood.

At the end of the 13-minute ordeal, Gibson said, Espinoza lost his patience and pushed on the door that was not deadbolted.

“The door lock fails and when the door lock fails, he breaches the space of the house. Mr. Dorsey fires a single shot,” Gibson said. The shot went through Espinoza’s shoulder, puncturing his lung.

Gibson’s investigation with Howard County police found that Dorsey acted in self-defense.

“They acted under the belief they were in danger and that belief was reasonable based on all of the facts. It’s tragic for that reason because there’s nobody that committed a crime on that evening, but we still lost a life,” said Chief of Major Crimes Doug Nelsen.

It’s a case of self-defense that Gibson said could be evaluated without the doorbell security video and audio.

“The Ring video was extremely helpful because it gave us insights into the behaviors of Mr. Espinoza and the interaction between Mr. Espinoza and Mr. Dorsey. And when you compare it with the 911 call that was received by Mrs. Dorsey inside the home, you can kind of simultaneously, through two different mediums, see the events occurring,” Gibson said.

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