The Allegheny Township homeowner who shot a man he thought was trying to get into his house in the middle of the night gave plenty of warnings and was "well within his legal rights" to pull the trigger, his attorney said.
Attorney Steven Passarello said Thursday his client, Timothy Lepore, and his wife were frightened for their lives as Brandon L. Zeth, 24, pounded on their windows and doors while screaming, "I'm coming in!" just after midnight Saturday morning on Cunningham Lane in Allegheny Township.
"Of course my client didn't know what the individual was there for, banging on the windows and acting aggressively," Passarello said.
Allegheny Township police have released scant details of the confrontation Jan. 14 at the Cunningham Lane home that left Zeth in critical condition at the Altoona Regional Health System from multiple gunshot wounds. No new condition report was available Thursday, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Passarello said there have been misinterpretations about what happened at Lepore's home in the past week, particularly since Zeth's family spoke with WTAJ-TV and said Zeth wasn't trying to break in but was intoxicated and thought he was at his girlfriend's house nearby.
Several attempts by the Mirror to contact Zeth's family were unsuccessful.
Passarello said that to the homeowner, it looked as if Zeth was there to do the couple harm.
It started with Zeth pounding on the front door, which woke the Lepore couple, who are in their 60s, with a start, Passarello said. Zeth was yelling he wanted to come inside. Zeth then moved to a living room window and rapped on it, all the while screaming that he was "coming in," the attorney said.
Passarello said when Zeth jumped onto a back deck, which had a locked entrance, and began yelling and banging on their bedroom window, Lepore's wife cowered in the corner as her husband tried to get the man to go away.
Lepore repeatedly told Zeth, who was wearing a hooded sweat shirt with the hood up, to go away as Zeth continued to scream, curse and say he was going to get into the house, Passarello related. With Zeth still on the deck and hitting the window so hard Lepore thought it would break, Lepore told his wife to "get down" and call 911.
Passarello said Zeth refused to leave, so Lepore retrieved a .22-caliber handgun and showed it to Zeth, who was still pounding on the window. Zeth didn't stop, Passarello said, so Lepore opened fire.
"Clearly, under the new Castle Doctrine, Mr. Lepore had every right to shoot him," said Passarello, who added he has tried to make contact with the Blair County District Attorney's Office about the incident but has not heard back from anyone.
"Basically, we're just waiting," said Passarello, who said he doesn't know whether Lepore will be charged.
Passarello insists that his client acted within the bounds of the law and said Lepore was concerned for his wife's and his own safety. He said under the expanded Castle Doctrine, people do not have to wait until someone is inside their house before resorting to deadly force to protect themselves.
Police have said they have yet to finish their investigation and want to talk to Zeth before releasing any more information about the shooting.
Mirror Staff Writer Greg Bock is at 946-7458.