Stephen Roger Hughes, a vet who served in the Navy for 11 years, fired twice at Marine Cpl. Edwin Estrada when the Marine attempted to forcefully enter Hughes’ residence in Wilmington, North Carolina, at 6:07 a.m., according to a press release from the district attorney’s office.
District Attorney Ben David called the incident a “highly cautionary tale.”
“Those who wander while highly intoxicated may be perceived as a threat and not only lose the protection of the laws, but may lose their very lives,” David wrote in the news release.
Estrada, 27, was stationed in Jacksonville, North Carolina, and was in Wilmington for the Marine Corps ball on Nov. 18, 2017. Instead of attending the ball, Estrada went to multiple bars in downtown Wilmington since he did not have the appropriate attire, according to the press release. He was later seen walking alone, heavily intoxicated.
Hughes, 36, said he heard “loud banging” on his door, and opened it to see Estrada, who tried to forcefully enter his residence, Hughes claims. Estrada lunged at him, and Hughes shot him because he feared for his life, the press release states.
North Carolina’s defense of habitation law, or “Castle doctrine,” states that a person is “justified using such force and is immune from civil or criminal liability” when protecting themselves and their homes.
“The law has long held that a person’s home is their castle, and there is no duty to retreat before using deadly force against an intruder,” the press release states.
The Naval Criminal Investigative Service, also investigating the issue, did not respond to a Marine Corps Times request for a comment.
“While this incident is not a crime, it is a tragedy on many levels and could have been avoided,” David wrote in the news release. “A young man who honorably served our country is dead. Another man, who also honorably served our country, must live with the realization that he took a fellow serviceman’s life.”
Estrada was assigned to Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 464 as a mechanic for CH-53E Super Stallions, according to the 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing.