18-year-old Sarah McKinley from Oklahoma lost her husband to lung cancer on Christmas Day, leaving her the sole caregiver to their three-month-old son. On New Year’s Eve, the teenage mother proved she was anything but defenceless after she shot and killed an intruder breaking into her home.
Two men tried breaking into Sarah McKinley’s house, one armed with a 12-inch hunting knife. While on the phone with 911, the young mother shot and killed one of the intruders with a 12-gauge shotgun after he passed the threshold.
After her husband’s funeral the previous week, a man named Justin Martin stopped by Sarah McKinley’s house, claiming he was a neighbour and only wanted to introduce himself.
Sarah McKinley was suspicious and she said he was calling late at night, when it was “pitch black outside”.
Justin Martin returned on New Year’s Eve, this time in the middle of the day and armed with a hunting knife and an accomplice – a man identified as 29-year-old Dustin Stewart.
Sarah McKinley told KOCO News that the men started knocking aggressively on her door, Justin Martin in front and Dustin Stewart in the back.
The young mother described to the Oklahoma station what she did: “I walked over and got the 12-gague, went in the bedroom and got the pistol, put the bottle in his mouth, and then I called 911”
She also barricaded the front door with a sofa.
Sarah McKinley asked the 911 dispatcher what to do should the two men break in.
“I’ve got two guns in my hand – is it okay to shoot him if he comes in the door?” she said.
“I’m in here by myself with my infant baby, can I please get a dispatcher out here immediately?”
Once the 911 dispatcher confirmed with the young mother that her doors were indeed locked, Sarah McKinley asked again if she could shoot the intruders.
“I can’t tell you that you can do that but you do what you have to do to protect your baby,” the dispatcher told her.
Sarah McKinley was on the phone with two dispatchers – which represented two neighbouring counties – for a total of 21 minutes.
Around 2:00 p.m., Justin Martin kicked in the door and Sarah McKinley shot him once in the torso. Since police said the shooting was in self-defense, she will not be charged.
Police found Justin Martin, 24, slumped over a floral-print sofa with a single gunshot wound. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
His accomplice, Dustin Stewart, told police he fled after he heard the gunshot and later was later driven to the police station by his parents, Newson6.com reports.
Dustin Stewart was being held in Grady County jail on felony murder charges and will be arraigned later today, NewsOK.com reports.
Detective Dan Huff told KOCO-TV that under some circumstances, shooting a person is permissible.
“You’re allowed to shoot an unauthorized person that is in your home,” he said.
“The law provides you the remedy, and sanctions the use of deadly force.”
The Oklahoma Castle Doctrine, otherwise known as the Make My Day law, states you can only shoot an intruder if they have entered your home.
Attorney Doug Frieson told Newson6.com that the law always protects someone in their home, no matter the circumstances.
“The simple fact that you’re unauthorized in the home is enough that allows the homeowner to use deadly force.”
Sarah McKinley said that though the shooting was justified, it was by no means an easy decision to make.
“It was either going to be him or my son. And it wasn’t going to be my son,” she said.
She added: “There’s nothing more dangerous than a woman with a child.”
Detectives will continue their investigation after they obtain a search warrant for Justin Martin’s car.
According to Grady County Sheriff Art Kell, a shooting case like this is rare. “Around the state, maybe two to three people get shot,” he said.
He said there are three deputies to cover the county’s 12,000 square miles, meaning a response could hardly be immediate.
Sheriff Art Kell added: “When (our dispatcher) got the call, we need to get more information, what’s the reason for the guy outside.”
Since Sarah McKinley was calling from a cell phone, her exact location was hard to pinpoint. But, he added, “the deputy was en route within seven minutes.”
He said that Sarah McKinley’s husband was in his 50s and the couple were married two years ago.
Art Kell said one of his dispatchers, Diane Graham, handled the call 911 call.
“I knew she was scared because she was whispering,” Diane Graham, a 911 dispatcher from the Grady County Sheriff’s Office told KFOR-TV.
“Anything can be serious in a moment’s notice, so you need to believe what they say when they call and get the help to them as quick as you can,” Diane Graham explained.
The dispatcher stayed on the phone with the scared mother before transferring her to the Blanchard Police.
Sarah McKinley was gracious to the dispatchers for helping her in the difficult situation.
“The 911 dispatcher was awesome,” Sarah McKinley told KFOR-TV.
“I was feeding off her and she was calm, so I could be calm.”
Detective Dan Huff told KFOR-TV that he and his fellow detectives believe the home invasion to have been “premeditated”.
The attack, as new reports reveal, may have been premeditated. Sarah McKinley’s mother told Newson6.com that Justin Martin stalked her daughter at a rodeo two years ago.
The two have since bumped into each other at a nearby convenience store. Sarah McKinley said she didn’t know who he was until after the shooting, when she pieced everything together.
In addition, two of her dogs were recently found dead.
Since news has spread, members of the Blanchard community are eager to help the young widow, donating clothes and gifts, as well as starting long-term funds for her son.
Sarah McKinley is touched by the kindness. She told KFOR-TV: “You don’t realize how many good people there are until tragedy happens and then they step forward.
“Kinda lose faith in the human race, but when people help, it puts that back in.”
Sarah McKinley’s 911 call to Grady County Sheriff
DISPATCHER: What’s going on?
SARAH MCKINLEY: There’s a guy at my door. I’ve got some dogs that keep coming up missing. This guy’s up to no good. My husband just passed away. I’m here by myself with my infant baby. Can I please get a dispatch out here immediately?
DISPATCHER: Hang with me a second. Are your doors locked?
SARAH MCKINLEY: Yes, I’ve got two guns in my hands. Is it okay to shoot him if he comes in this door?
DISPATCHER: Well, you have to do whatever you can do to protect yourself. I can’t tell you that you can do that, but you do what you have to do to protect your baby. Is he trying to get in the door?
SARAH MCKINLEY: He just keeps knocking.
DISPATCHER: Okay. Alright. Do you have like an alarm on your car that you can set off with your remote control that might scare him and get him away?
SARAH MCKINLEY: No, I don’t.
DISPATCHER: Alright, that’s okay.(rustling)
The dispatcher then transfers Ms McKinley to a neighbouring county. That call was not recorded.
What is Make My Day law?
Castle Doctrine – colloquially called the Make My Day Law from the 1983 Clint Eastwood film Sudden Impact – are legislated by individual states. Not all states have the law, which allow people to defend themselves in their homes. Oklahoma law states that anyone unlawfully entering a person’s home can be defended against by using physical or deadly force. The law was recently expanded in Oklahoma to include businesses.