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Sherrie Gavan was just trying to protect her son, Clayton. The teen had started using heroin in high school, and the family had done all it could to keep him clean. They even sent him away to live with relatives, and watched him like a hawk when he was home.
It wasn't enough.
Clayton's drug dealer repeatedly sought him out and showed up at the family's Missouri house. By December, Gavan had had enough. Unfortunately, a confrontation with the man ended in assault -- his. She struck him and has now been criminally charged for her actions.
Gavan has pointed the finger at a 20-year-old neighbor, according to Fox News. He would reintroduce heroin into her son's life while he was getting clean. She wanted him to stop.
During the confrontation, he began to reach for something in his car, reports the station. She panicked and smacked him. He called the police.
If these facts are true, Sherrie Gavan may be able to claim self-defense. In Missouri, self-defense requires a defendant to have:
- reasonably believed she was in imminent danger of harm;
- reasonably believed force was necessary to defend herself from that harm; and
- used a reasonable amount of force to prevent or stop that harm.
Given public perception of drug dealers as violent offenders, it was arguably reasonable for Gavan to believe the man was reaching for a gun. It was also reasonable for her believe that physical force was necessary to disarm or distract him. Physical force is also minimal when compared to a firearm.
Even if this argument doesn't work in her favor, Sherrie Gavan will likely receive much sympathy from a judge or jury. Few people will severely punish a woman trying to keep a drug dealer away from her teenage son.