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"This was defense of last resort," says statement from family in Woodbine shooting

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Posted at 4:17 PM, Jul 26, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-26 16:17:41-04

WOODBINE, Md. — The attorney for the Howard County couple that shot and killed a man they thought was an intruder, but who was more likely actually a disoriented house guest of a neighbor, released a statement explaining their perspective of the night of the incident, expressing their regret but justification in the death.

On July 21, around 1 a.m., 46-year-old Gerard Alberto Espinoza, known to friends as “Gary,” was wearing no shirt or shoes when he began banging on the front door of the Charles and Barbara Dorsey’s home in the 14000 block of Carriage Mill Road in Woodbine. Espinoza, who was from Chantilly, Va., had been visiting his friend Michael Sweeney and his wife, who live nearby.

Sweeney said his house has a pool with a black fence around it that makes the home look similar to the Dorsey’s, and he thinks Espinoza got confused and wandered to the wrong house. Sweeney said Espinoza was up visiting for a pool party, and that he had headed to a different neighbor's house following the party and never made his way back to the Sweeney’s.

As Espinoza banged on the Dorsey’s door asking to be let in, the incident was captured on the Dorsey’s home security camera. When he is not permitted entry, Espinoza becomes more belligerent as the Dorseys call police and shout for him to go away. Police said at one point in the video the door releases, and then Espinoza is shot by 56-year-old Charles Dorsey, who then begins shouting, “He pushed the door open. He pushed the door open.” Espinoza died of his injuries.

In the statement released by the Dorsey’s lawyer, Paul E. Mack, they said Charles and Barbara Dorsey were awakened by the banging on their door at about 1:05 a.m.

“They were understandably confused and frightened,” Mack’s letter states. They told Espinoza to leave, and Barbara called 911, staying on the phone with dispatchers for about eight minutes. Espinoza then left the door only to return a short time later and begin screaming, to the point that the Dorseys felt threatened.

The Sweeneys said that Espinoza probably thought his friends where inside playing a prank on him. He responded in gruff language as more of a joke than in actual malice, they believe. Mack said that the Dorseys called 911 again at 1:15 a.m. to say Espinoza had returned.

“Despite Mr. Dorsey’s repeated pleas for him to leave, Mr. [Espinoza] forced the front door open,” the letter said. “It was at this time Mr. Dorsey exercised his right to self-defense and shot Mr. [Espinoza] one time. At no time did Mr. [Espinoza] give any indication that he was looking for anyone else in the neighborhood, or that he may have been lost. Mr. and Mrs. Dorsey had never met or seen Mr. [Espinoza] previously in the neighborhood, or anywhere else for that matter. …

“While the Dorseys mourn the loss of life, they want all to understand that this was a defense of last resort, after repeated warnings for the unknown intruder to leave their family home,” the letter said. “They live in a very rural area, and were left with no choice but to defend their lives and property. This event has had a tragic impact on their lives, and will remain with them forever.”

Mack said the couple fully cooperated with police, sitting for hours at the station after the shooting and complying with search warrants. They also are complying with the State’s Attorney’s Office's request to to not release the footage of the incident until the investigation is completed.

No charges have been filed as of yet, and Charles Dorsey has no prior criminal record, Mack said. The couple has lived in their home for 22 years, Mack said.

Family and friends of Espinoza were shocked by the tragic death. Espinoza leaves behind two sons and a wife of more than 20 years.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the statement from Mack, Espinoza’s name was spelled “Espinosa.” WMAR-2 News corrected the spelling in quotes pulled from the statement by bracketed the name to signify a modification of the original text.