The fatal shooting of three teens by a Georgia homeowner this week could be a "stand your ground" case, the Rockdale County Sheriff says.
The teens, ages 15 and 16, died Monday following an early morning exchange of gunfire with a resident, Sheriff Eric Levett said. He said evidence indicates the three teens attempted to rob three people in a front yard.
"It could be a 'stand your ground' type case, based on the preliminary (information) that we have learned so far," Levett said at a press conference.
Levett said the teens were wearing masks when they approached the yard, and that one of them brandished a gun and reportedly fired shots at the residents.
"One of the intended robbery victims returned fire," Levett said in a statement. The victims of the attempted robbery were not injured, but one of the teens died at the scene and the others were rushed to a hospital where they died, Levett said.
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He said the three people at the residence and several neighbors were interviewed and that no charges had been filed so far. Two guns were found at the scene, he said, but it was not clear to whom they belonged.
"This is at the very early stages of the investigation," Levett said.
Stand your ground laws essentially state that a person who is being threatened by another person's use of force does not have a duty to retreat or back down.
Lawyer Mark O'Mara represented George Zimmerman in the fatal 2012 shooting of teen Trayvon Martin in Florida, a case that shined a spotlight on stand-your-ground laws even though O'Mara opted for a more standard self-defense argument. O'Mara is not involved in the Georgia case.
"If the guys really were armed when they came up to the house, that is all it takes" to meet the standard, O'Mara told USA TODAY. "It's pretty much textbook."
In Conyers, neighbor Carlos Watson told WSB-TV that he heard gunshots at about 4 a.m. Monday.
"It was five shots, and then it sounded like a handgun. Then I heard somebody have an assault rifle," Watson said. "And it was a slew of shots."
Neighbor Brian Jenkins told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he waited until deputies arrived before checking on the masked man lying in his yard, screaming for help.
“I told him to just calm down and relax,” he said. “It will be OK, just stop moving.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Stand your ground: Homeowner kills three teens in shootout