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Video shows backyard shooting of intruder ruled self-defense

Despite protest from the decedent's family, the prosecutor ruled the case "valid self defense."

MINNEAPOLIS — It was a case that had a lot of people talking — a south Minneapolis homeowner and her son shot and killed a man in their backyard who tried getting into their home.

Surveillance video and police reports obtained by KARE 11 through a data request add context to what happened, and why the Hennepin County Attorney ultimately decided not to file charges in the case.

The shooting happened in February on a cold, 6-degree night in south Minneapolis in a neighborhood that had seen an increase in armed robberies.

After checking the locked gate, surveillance video outside the home shows Martin Lee Johnson hopping the fence.

A motion light turns on as Johnson approaches the house.

According to police reports, the homeowner, a 53-year-old woman, heard Johnson "wiggle the door handle" and his steps on the deck, so she told her 26-year-old son who lives with her, and grabbed her handgun as Johnson entered the family's detached garage.

The homeowner opened the sliding door and fired warning shots in the air.

"Get the (expletive) out of my garage, now!" she screamed in between gunshots.

On the surveillance video, you can hear the homeowner's son's voice as he joins her in yelling at the intruder.

"Get the (expletive) out," they both yell as Johnson walks out of the garage door.

Johnson appears to look toward the fence momentarily before walking toward the mother and son. The surveillance camera is positioned right above the sliding door where they stood, pointed right at Johnson.

"No, go the other way," the woman yelled.

But instead of hopping back over the fence, Johnson walked toward them.

After two more warning shots, the fatal shot is fired by the son who was standing next to his mother inside the open door also holding a gun.

"My clients were acting completely in self-defense," said Minneapolis criminal defense attorney Joe Tamburino, who said he is representing the mother and son pro bono.

"They gave warning shots. They said go away. And he continued to approach their home. It was clear-cut," he said.

The Hennepin County Attorney's Office declined charges in the case — calling it valid self-defense — despite protests from Johnson's family and friends. 

The armed homeowners told police that taking a life is the last thing they wanted to happen.

"Regardless of the circumstances, you have someone's life ending. These people are human beings. They're wonderful people. And knowing that someone's life ended is very heavy to deal with. So yeah, it's difficult," Tamburino said.

KARE 11 reached out to Johnson's family for comment but did not hear back. In the past, they have said Johnson should be alive today, and likely was looking for shelter, not to harm anyone.

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