A Missouri man who killed two people following a dispute that began over firewood will not be charged, a grand jury decided Wednesday.
The 22-year-old shooter, whose name was not publicly disclosed, shot and killed Kalob Lawson, 34, and Jonathan Lutz, 44, in February when one of the men approached him with a gun, according to Platte County Prosecuting Attorney Eric Zahnd.
Because of Missouri’s stand your ground law, the shooter was justified in his actions, Zahnd said. The controversial law was enacted in 2017 and was later amended to include acts of self defense.
“Missouri’s ‘stand your ground’ law means people do not have to retreat before using force to defend themselves if they are in a place they have a right to be,” Zahnd said in a news release. “And while people can never use deadly force merely to protect property, they can use deadly force if they reasonably believe deadly force is necessary to protect themselves against death or serious physical injury.”
The shooting occurred Feb. 10 when Lawson and Lutz were paid $200 to deliver firewood to the 22-year-old man’s father. The son noticed his father was shorted firewood, so he followed the two in his vehicle, the prosecuting attorney said.
When the son caught up to Lawson and Lutz on Highway 9, the drivers in the two vehicles both pulled over. A witness observed the 22-year-old stepping out of his vehicle and saying, “Are you just going to rob my dad?” according to Zahnd.
Lutz and Lawson, the latter of whom was armed with a handgun, then walked toward the 22-year-old. Lawson pointed his gun at the man before he grabbed his own firearm.
The shooter fired multiple times, hitting Lawson in the chest and face and Lutz in the abdomen and shoulder, according to the prosecuting attorney. Lawson, of Kimberling City, died at the scene and Lutz, of Kansas City, died at a hospital.
The 22-year-old man left the scene before calling 911 at his home. He then voluntarily surrendered to sheriff’s deputies, but a grand jury declined to indict him Wednesday.
Kyle Lawson, Kalob’s brother, told WDAF the situation does not make sense to him and that he is not coping well with the grand jury’s decision.
“None of that makes sense and it’s not right. This kid should not walk away free,” Kyle Lawson said.
“I don’t care if my brother didn’t give them any wood or shorted them wood or whatever he did. You don’t get to chase him down with a gun and take justice into your own hands and say ‘Well I felt threatened, so I killed him,’” he added.
Relatives for Lawson and Lutz told KCTV they are speaking with an attorney involving the case. “It’s ridiculous,” said David Lawson, Kalob’s father.
Zahnd called the case “tragic” but noted the grand jury did not find a crime was committed.
Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization in opposition of stand your ground legislation, says 29 states have the laws in effect. The organization states the laws have led to an additional 150 fatal shootings each month in the United States.
“Stand Your Ground laws give people a license to kill, allowing those who shoot others to obtain immunity, even if they started the confrontation and even when they can safely de-escalate the situation by walking away,” Everytown states.