In Iowa, you can use reasonable force against someone when you reasonably believe that you or another person is in danger.  What this means is that if someone threatens you or another person, you can use whatever amount of force would be necessary to keep them from injuring either one of you.  You can use reasonable force even if there are other courses of action available, as long as the alternatives would risk your own or another’s life or safety, or require you to abandon your home or place of business.  You can also use reasonable force to defend your property. 

Sometimes, reasonable force can be deadly force.  In August 2013, Jerome and Carolyn Mauderly, of Bedford, Iowa, shot and killed escaped felon Rodney Long after he had held them hostage for four hours.  Long, who had been convicted of third-degree burglary, had escaped from a minimum security facility in Clarinda on Friday, August 9.  During his escape he shot Taylor County Police Deputy Dan Wychoff in the chest and arm, causing non-life threatening injuries.  Long fled in Wychoff’s police car, later exchanged more gunfire with officers, and escaped on foot.

Between then and when the Mauderlys called 911 to report having shot Long, authorities searched 16 square miles of the area surrounding the Mauderlys’ home.  They searched the Mauderlys’ property itself three times.  On Monday night, Long forced himself into the Mauderlys’ home and woke up the couple.  He disabled all but one of their landline phones and took a shotgun that Mr. Mauderly, a former prison guard, had loaded and placed beside the bed.  Long moved the shotgun to the kitchen and held the couple hostage at gunpoint while he searched their home for supplies, apparently in furtherance of his escape.

Around 2 AM, Mr. Mauderly was able to sneak into the kitchen to grab his shotgun.  He shot Long as Long was coming down the stairs.  The couple called 911 to report the shooting.  A nearby trooper responded and upon his arrival found Long dead face down on the kitchen floor.  The couple faces no charges in connection with the shooting.

A number of factors make this situation an ideal example of the proper use of reasonable force.  Long was holding the Mauderlys hostage, was armed, and had cut them off from the outside world.  Because of the publicity of the case, the Mauderlys knew he had already shot someone, and had a real and reasonable fear that he was going to kill them.  Furthermore, when Mr. Mauderly shot Long, he was protecting not just himself, but also his wife and their property.  Even though Long did not make any attempt to kill either husband or wife, Mr. Mauderly’s response to his taking them hostage was an example of reasonable force.  In this case, it was quite clear that Long was the “bad” guy and the Mauderlys were the “good” guys.

However, not every reasonable force case is going to be as clear-cut as this one.  I like to say to my clients, "Help me to help you."  If we can help you call the Lombardi Law Firm to speak with attorneys Steve Lombardi and Katrina Schaefer. We can be reached at 515-222-1110 or by emailing us at [email protected] and [email protected] We look forward to your call.

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