Rising crime rates across Washington state have a lot of people concerned. Some are becoming gun owners for the first time and that's causing a big surge in ownership in the state say police. Some residents are asking, is it legal to use deadly force to protect my property in Washington state? How can we legally protect our property?

Things like rioting, looting, retail theft, vandalism, and rampant drug use seem to be an expected part of big city life in major places like Seattle, but these can happen in any small town, too. What legal steps can you pursue to protect your home and loved ones?

CAN YOU KILL SOMEONE BECAUSE THEY'RE STEALING YOUR PROPERTY?

What kind of action can you take if someone decides to break into your home, business or car? Police say you can't use lethal force in Washington State. Yakima County Prosecutor Joe Brusic, for instance, says you can only use lethal force when "there's a reasonable fear that you'll be killed or seriously injured" in the situation. Simply put, it is against the law to use deadly force in Washington state to defend your property, no matter how important the property is to you.

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STORE OWNERS HAVE TO WATCH AS LOOTERS GRAB ITEMS

Looting has been a big problem in many states across America. According to the blog of William K. Kirk, attorney at law in Kirkland, Washington isn't immune, but store owners can't use deadly force. Only if looters take retail items without threatening to harm or kill anyone, or if a store owner believes their life is in danger, can they can then defend themselves. In other words, if you are legally in your location, you have no duty to back down and can use reasonable force to defend yourself.

The force you use, however, must be proportionate.

YAKIMA COUNTY PROSECUTOR IS DECIDING TWO DEADLY USE OF FORCE CASES

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Yakima County Prosecutor, Joe Brusic, is still in the process of making a charging decision in a case of a man killed at a dog park in Yakima on February 5th. 22-year-old Daniel Ortega was killed at the park after police say he was "acting erratically and harassing a 28-year-old man and his son." Police say the man asked Ortega to leave them alone, but when Ortega wouldn't, the man fired his gun saying. The man alleged that he was protecting himself and his young son. Brusic is also set to make a charging decision in another shooting that was reported in Yakima on the same day.

IN BOTH CASES, THE SHOOTERS CLAIM THEY FELT THREATENED

The other shooting on February 5th happened at a Beech Street home in Yakima. Agustin Tello, a 29-year-old resident of Yakima, died after police reported that he knocked on someone's door while carrying a gun. A fight started between the three men at the home, and one of the men grabbed a firearm and shot Tello, who later died in the back yard of the home. So far no charges have been filed in either of the cases.

There is no "Stand Your Ground" law in Washington state. View the current RCW law statute that states when it is legal to protect yourself or your property, here.

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