The case against Clare B. Niederhauser, the Layton man who illegally discharged his firearm after encountering a burglary at his home, was appropriately resolved in a manner that respected the law and did not overcharge Niederhauser.
The 64-year-old man pleaded no contest to illegal discharge of a firearm, a Class B misdemeanor. He will forfeit his Ruger 357 handgun, pay a $700 fine, and take a weapons class that involves using deadly force. Niederhauser had previously been charged by the Layton City Attorney’s Office with a single count of reckless endangerment, a class A misdemeanor.
We particularly agree with the requirement that Niederhauser take a class on the use of deadly force with a weapon. Frankly, learning what can’t be done with a firearm is as important as learning what can be done with the weapon. Classes that involve the safe use of firearms focus on how rare actually firing a weapon in a dispute should be.
In the Niederhauser case, he admitted, through his attorney’s statement, that he used his weapon illegally. After discovering an intruder in his house with a crowbar, Niederhauser fired a shot after occupants of a vehicle in his driveway drove away from the scene. Later, after police arrived, Niederhauser fired a shot toward a field after the intruder tried to leave the scene.
The statement from Niederhauser read, in part, “... To my friends and fellow citizens, we do have the right to protect ourselves, but it must be within the parameter of the law. Please know you do not shoot at a fleeing felon unless someone’s life is in immediate danger. Remember we value life more than property.”
We have sympathy for what Niederhauser endured. As he said in his statement, he “was not prepared for the adrenaline and emotion” that hampered his ability to follow his gun-safety training. Many members of the community were displeased that he was arrested and charged with a class A misdemeanor. A very large crowd was prepared to attend a Layton City Council meeting to express displeasure with the charges filed against a man who was protecting his home.
Fortunately, Niederhauser understands he made mistakes and is willing to take responsibility for those mistakes and resolve the case against him. Others face more serious charges. Two persons are in custody, charged with burglarizing Niederhauser’s home. One is Robert Santos Cruz, 47, the man who Niederhauser confronted leaving his home.