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Fatal shooting of Lancaster man in April was justified, Lancaster County DA says

LANCASTER — The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office announced Friday that no charges will be brought against the man who shot and killed a 3...

LANCASTER — The Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office announced Friday that no charges will be brought against the man who shot and killed a 31-year-old Lancaster man in a confrontation on the 500 block of South Queen Street in Lancaster on April 27.

Tony Torrellas died after sustaining four gunshot wounds in the incident.

But after studying the evidence collected in an investigation that lasted more than two months, Lancaster County District Attorney Craig Stedman concluded that the man who shot Torrellas was justified under the Castle Doctrine, which states that deadly force can be used against an intruder, Stedman’s office said in a press release.

Torrellas was shot after entering a home in the 500 block of South Queen Street, occupied by a man and two women — one woman being Torrellas’ ex-girlfriend and the mother of his child.

The man at the home shot Torrellas four times after Torrellas entered the home, Stedman’s office said.

The shooting happened after Torrellas’ ex-girlfriend and the man repeatedly told Torrellas not to come inside and that he would be shot if he entered.

The DA said his office reviewed all of the evidence gathered by the Lancaster City Police, including interview reports, an audio recording of the moments before the shooting, and other pertinent information.

“We are not offering an opinion or commentary as to whether the shooter acted appropriately; rather our role is to determine if a charge can be supported,” Stedman’s office said in the press release. “The Castle Doctrine states that deadly force can be used against an intruder, but it does not specify how the deadly force should be administered.”

Stedman’s office said it took time to reach its determination in the case because it was “necessary to ensure all circumstances were uncovered and investigated.”

Additionally, Stedman said, Torrellas’ family asked for a period of time to notify other relatives and friends before an announcement was made publicly after meeting with the DA’s Office last week.

Stedman’s office provided a timeline of the incident and how the Castle Doctrine applies. (For clarity purposes, Torellas is identified by name, the shooter is identified as “boyfriend,” the ex-girlfriend is identified as “woman,” and the third occupant of the home is identified as “third occupant.”)

  • Torrellas and the woman share custody of a child.
  • The woman and her boyfriend reside at the South Queen Street home.
  • Prior to the shooting, the woman dropped off the child at Torrellas’ home. The two then exchanged text messages, which became unpleasant, and at a point, the woman turned off her phone.
  • Torrellas went to the South Queen Street home just after midnight. Cellphone analysis showed that Torrellas was not invited to the home.
  • The woman and her boyfriend were in an upstairs room watching television. The third occupant, who provided statements to police, also was home.
  • A loud bang was heard, prompting the woman to go downstairs and look outside; she saw Torrellas. She yelled out a window that he was to go away and that she would call police.
  • Torrellas stayed at the home and eventually rang the doorbell.
  • The woman came to the door and told Torrellas to leave.
  • Torrellas pushed on the door to get inside and told the woman he would “smack” her.
  • Torrellas got into the home by pushing open the door. The boyfriend was on a stairwell and repeatedly told Torrellas that if he entered the home he would be shot.
  • Torrellas entered the home – a fact known due to physical evidence and statements from the three occupants. Specifically, the woman said the front screen door closed behind Torrellas, indicating he fully entered the home. Additionally, Torrellas’ blood (from the gunshot wounds) was found inside the home.
  • Torrellas was about three steps inside the home when the boyfriend fired five shots. Torrellas was struck four times in the front and side of his body. He made his way to the porch steps, where police found him after the boyfriend called 911.
  • Police rendered aid until medics arrived. Torrellas was pronounced dead at a hospital.

According to Stedman, the Castle Doctrine states that a person can use deadly force to protect themselves when the following applies:

  • The person against whom the force is used (in this case, Torrellas) is in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or has unlawfully and forcefully entered and is present within, a dwelling, residence or occupied vehicle
  • The actor (in this case, the boyfriend) knows or has reason to believe that the unlawful and forceful entry or act is occurring or has occurred.

Stedman determined that both conditions were satisfied in this case, because Torrellas did not live at the home, he was not invited to come to or inside the home. Additionally, Stedman said, Torrellas was told not to come inside while he was on the porch — more specifically, he was told he would be shot if he entered the home.

The boyfriend was aware that Torrellas did not live at the home and that he was not invited to enter; rather, the boyfriend and the woman gave directives to Torrellas that he should leave and that he would be shot if he entered, Stedman said.

Stedman said the three occupants of the home were fully cooperative with police. All gave multiple statements to police and the statements corroborated and were consistent every time, according to investigators. The third occupant of the home said she heard Torrellas’ girlfriend repeatedly tell him to leave, and she also heard the boyfriend tell Torrellas, “Get out or I’m going to shoot you.”

Additionally, Stedman said, the woman and her boyfriend reenacted, multiple times on multiple days, the positioning of everyone when the shooting happened. The reenactments were consistent and supported by physical evidence at the scene, including shell casings that showed the boyfriend fired from the staircase area and Torrellas’ blood which showed he was inside the home when he was shot.

There was also an audio recording of a key portion of the incident, including the shooting and an exchange of words prior to the shooting, according to Stedman’s office. Torrellas called the woman’s phone while he was at the home. Even though the woman’s phone was off, the voicemail activated and recorded audio.

The shooter legally owned the firearm, according to Stedman. He fired five times in immediate succession; Torrellas was wounded four times.