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A former star high-school athlete was shot and killed in Texas over the weekend. Chris Mass, 23, was apparently killed in an argument sparked by a flirtatious tweet sent by the alleged shooter.
Authorities say there was a confrontation between suspected shooter Ricky Neal Jr. and a group of friends including Mass at a Texas mall, reports the Tyler Morning Telegraph.
Neal, 25, had apparently tweeted a flirtatious message to a girlfriend of one of Mass' friends. The two groups then met at a store inside the mall where they began to argue. The argument then moved outside into the parking lot.
While in the parking lot, Neal was able to retrieve a 0.40-caliber handgun from his car. Then, as three men approached him, Neal fired several rounds at the group. Mass was shot twice and died at the scene. The other two men fled and apparently were not injured, reports the Morning Telegraph.
Given that three men reportedly approached Neal following an argument and confrontation, you may wonder if Neal has a viable self-defense claim.
Under Texas law, a person can claim self-defense when he "reasonably believes the [use of] deadly force is immediately necessary," either to protect himself from unlawful deadly force or to prevent someone else from the "imminent commission" of a heinous crime like murder or sexual assault.
However, given that there were no other weapons found at the scene, it appears doubtful that the incident can be characterized as self-defense. A Tyler police spokesman pointed out that Neal could have simply gotten into his car and left the scene, instead of pulling out a gun and firing. And it's not clear just what kind of threat Mass or the other two men may have posed.
Neal will need the help of a good criminal defense attorney, as he faces a first-degree murder charge for the shooting death of Chris Mass.
If convicted, Neal could be sentenced to up to 99 years in prison, but he will not be eligible for the death penalty. In Texas, the death penalty is only used for capital murder convictions.