“I have this grocery store for more than 15 years and, in that time, I have been assaulted so many times that I have lost count, they have never shot at us, but we are very afraid. Once, I was with my recently born daughter and the thieves threatened me with weapons and they took all the money.

The most recent case of “self-defense” occurred on April 3 in Cartago, where the owner of the minisuper shot and killed one of the assailants and wounder another. Both assailanets were minors. Photo: Keyna Calderón, La Nacion

“From there, I said to myself: ‘I can not allow this, they did not shoot us this time, but on another occasion, they can do it and kill me and kill my daughter.’ My husband and I took strong security measures: we put cameras and we got a gun. ”

That is the story of Wendy, a Chinese merchant, who has a grocery store in La Uruca, San Jose, told La Nacion in an interview.

Before that assault, Wendy remembers she did not think about having a gun, but circumstances forced her to take out weapons permit and be prepared for an eventual robbery.

“All I know is that I can be armed and a lawyer told me that if someone comes in to harm us, I can use the gun … we have to do something to stop these situations and that is our solution,” she concluded.

Wendy is not alone. Many merchants like Wendy are arming themselves, clinging to self-defense to protect themselves, loved ones and employees in the face growing attacks of criminals.

Some use firearms, others simply install security cameras, while others hire private security guards.

The latest case of apparent self-defense was last Tuesday night when a Chinese merchant defended his wife from an assault on the business. The event occurred El Guarco de Cartago.

In that case, one of the assailants died after being shot in the abdomen and the other was wounded. Their identities were not revealed to the press, because they are minors.

Apparently, the young men had committed another robbery hours earlier in another nearby store.

That case is under investigation by the Organismo de Investigation Judicial (OIJ), and it will then be up to the Fiscalia (Prosecutor’s Office) to determine what comes next.

Another similar incident occurred in January, in El Roble de Puntarenas, where a minor also died and another was injured when they tried to rob a supermarket, also owned by an Asian, that had been the target of an attack on a prior occasion.

So far this year, at least one merchant has died at the hands of criminals. The incident occurred in San Ramón de Alajuela, where two men attacked the owner of a liquor store to rob him, but in the end they fled empty-handed.

What is a legitimate defense?

According to article 28 of the Penal Code: “The person who acts in defense does not commit an offense whenever there is an illegitimate aggression and a reasonable need of the defense used to repel or prevent the aggression”.

Criminal lawyer Gerardo Huertas, explains legitimate defense is justified when the attacker is, say, of larger build and or greater weight and comes at the victim with a knife or fist, and the victim responds with a gun, if and when all the weapons paperwork is in order.

“It’s not that I can use the weapon only when someone is pointing one at me, or that I can only use a knife when they threaten me with a knife, it all depends on the situation,” said Huertas.

The criminal lawyer pointed out that in the specific case of an attack inside a private property, be it home or a business, the offended person should not wait to be shot or hit to act.

The legitimate self-defense is in the face of immediate threat. That is to say that if the assailant falls to the ground (before or after being shot by the offended) and the danger is reduced, if the offended shoots or continues to shoot, it would be considered an act of excessive force and could be subject to prosecution for attempted homicide or homicide, explained the lawyer.

“If the thief leaves the house or business and is shot or attacked in another way, there would no longer be any question of self-defense because the danger had ceased. When the victimizer leaves, the correct thing is to call the police,” Huertas said.

Source (in Spanish): La Nacion