First report posted here on KABA, November 28, 2001 as:
Man Shot By Homeowner Was Facing Felony Charges -- including home invasion -- and how he's facing his maker
CEDAR SPRINGS, MICHIGAN -- A Cedar Springs homeowner will not face charges for killing a drunken
intruder last month on his back porch.
Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth said in an opinion issued this
morning that Robert James Clarke, 48, acted in self-defense early Nov. 24
when he fatally shot Kevin Lee Salinas, 22.
Still, Forsyth called the death an unnecessary tragedy.
"It is human nature to second-guess how this drunken kid might still
be alive if Mr. Clarke hadn't stepped outside to confront him,"
Although Robert and Valerie Clarke were awakened shortly before 3:30
a.m. by the sound of someone rattling windows and doors at their home, 153
Pine St., Forsyth said there was no evidence Salinas intended to commit a
burglary or a crime of violence.
Salinas, whose blood-alcohol level was 21/2 times the legal limit, ran
from police outside a Cedar Springs bar an hour earlier. Getting caught
drunk would have resulted in Salinas being taken to jail because he was
out on bond for a July charge of allegedly breaking into a home,
assaulting his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend, then fleeing from
police and resisting arrest.
Forsyth theorized Salinas may have thought he would have been caught
again by police when he reportedly said, "We've already been through
this before," when Robert Clarke shined a flashlight on him stumbling
around the Clarkes' back yard.
"But that doesn't change the perception in the minds of the Mr. and
Mrs. Clarke," Forsyth said. "They were awakened early in the morning
by someone at the windows and door. They had five kids in the house
and there is a drunken, incoherent man in their back yard who keeps
coming at them even when he (Robert Clarke) has a gun pointed at him.
"The tragedy is, had he not gone outside to confront him, this kid
probably would have simply staggered away. But there is nothing
illegal about going outside your house," Forsyth said.
Michigan law allows homeowners to use deadly force to defend
themselves and their family from imminent danger in the home. A case
decided last year by Michigan's Court of Appeals defined a porch as
part of the home in self-defense cases.
Neither Clarke nor his attorney, Frank Hillary, could be reached for
comment this morning. Relatives of Salinas also were not available for
The ruling angered friends of Salinas. "That is not right, that is
totally wrong," said Arlene Allred, 33, of Cedar Springs, a long-time
friend with whom Salinas lived for four years.
It was Allred's house that Salinas broke into in July after his
girlfriend broke up with him, Allred said.
"Kevin was harmless," she said. "He had no weapon. He was running from the police to begin with. He (Clarke) could have shot him in the foot or the
leg. He didn't even fire a warning shot.
"Something has to be done with him. He's walking away from clean
Forsyth said his review of the incident shows Robert Clarke confronted Salinas in the yard and told him to leave the property. Clarke then retreated into his house to arm himself with his registered 9-mm handgun when Salinas started walking toward him.
Robert Clarke stepped through an open sliding glass door from the
bedroom to the deck with the gun.
Valerie Clarke dialed 911 and watched as Salinas walked onto an
attached deck about 4 or 5 feet from her husband before Robert Clarke
fired a single shot at Salinas' mid-section.
The sound of the shot is clearly heard on a tape recording of the
dramatic nine-minute phone conversation Valerie Clarke had with a Kent
County Sheriff's Department emergency dispatcher.
Forsyth said he spent five hours listening to the tape before making
his decision to not charge Robert Clarke. He said it is clear the
Clarkes felt threatened.
"All you have to do is listen to that tape and you can hear the impact on
the Clarkes. She is terrified," Forsyth said.
In the final seconds before the fatal shot,
Robert Clarke backed so close to the bedroom's sliding door that his
voice could be heard on the tape warning Salinas, "Son, you better sit
After the gunshot, Valerie Clarke told the dispatcher that her husband
fired a shot at the intruder. The dispatcher advised the Clarkes to stay
inside, lock the doors and put the gun away. Valerie Clarke told the
dispatcher that her husband put the gun in a drawer.
During the next seven minutes, the dispatcher questioned Valerie
Clarke, who cried and described how Salinas was bleeding from his
side. She said he attempted to stand, then crawled from the deck to
the back yard.
"Please, please, please hurry," Valerie Clarke pleaded.
Deputies arrived 71/2 minutes after the dispatcher received the call.
Salinas was semi-conscious in the back yard.
A bloodstain was on the deck where Robert Clarke said he shot Salinas, who
died eight hours later at Spectrum Health's Butterworth Campus.
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