A 17-year-old boy shot and killed by a man who said the teen had broken into his garage was a foreign exchange student, Diren Dede, from Hamburg, Germany, Missoula Public Schools officials said. / Blackfoot Media Group
MISSOULA, Mont. - The German government expressed great concern Tuesday about the shooting death of one of its foreign exchange students, killed Sunday after entering the garage of a Missoula resident.
Diren Dede, 17, of Hamburg, Germany, died from multiple gunshot wounds about a half hour after being taken to a hospital.
Homeowner Markus Hendrick Kaarma, 29, is accused of firing his shotgun repeatedly into his darkened garage, striking the student in the head and left arm. Kaarma was charged Sunday with one count of deliberate homicide and was released on $30,000 bail.
"We hope that justice will be done to make it clear to everyone that an unarmed juvenile cannot be lawfully killed by a citizen in Montana simply because he has trespassed in a garage," said Julia Reinhardt, press spokeswoman for the German Consulate General in San Francisco. "It is for us a big concern."
Under Montana law, a person is justified in the use of deadly force if they have a reasonable belief that force is necessary to prevent an assault upon them or another person in the household. The law is commonly referred to as the "castle doctrine."
Prosecutors said Kaarma set a trap to catch any would-be burglars because he was frustrated over recent thefts.
Kaarma was overheard several days earlier threatening to shoot whoever was burglarizing his home, according to a probable cause affidavit.
Kaarma's wife, Janelle Pflager, told Missoula police that their home had been burglarized twice in the past two weeks. In response, Pflager and Kaarma had installed motion sensors and a live-streaming video baby monitor in their garage.
To set a trap for any thief, the couple left the garage door open so it could be seen from the street and planted a purse inside filled with documented personal items "so that they would take it," she said. Kaarma fired four times without warning into his darkened garage.
Representatives of the German government are heading to Montana to assist members of Dede's family in contacts with local authorities, Reinhardt said.
Dede came to Montana in August and was a junior at Big Sky High School, according to Missoula County Public Schools. Dede played soccer for both the high school boys' team and a local men's club soccer team.
"The staff, the students, the families are shocked," school district spokesman Hatton Littman said Monday. "We all feel this is a great tragedy. I think people are just sitting with their grief right now."
Shortly after midnight, Pflager and Kaarma heard a sensor alert indicating someone was in the garage. Pflager pulled up images from the video monitor and observed a male in the garage, authorities said.
Kaarma is accused of taking his shotgun, going out the front door and walking to the driveway in front of the garage between his pickup truck and the open garage door. Pflager followed behind him.
Kaarma told police that he heard a noise from the darkened garage that sounded like metal on metal and that he was afraid the intruder would leave the garage and harm him. He said he could not see into the garage and did not warn anybody that he would shoot.
Pflager turned on the exterior lights, making it even more difficult to see inside, Kaarma said.
Pflager told police that when Kaarma reached the open garage door she heard him say "Hey, hey" and chamber a shell into his shotgun, according to the probable cause affidavit. Pflager then heard the man inside the garage say "hey" or "wait" and then Kaarma fired four shots in quick succession into the dark garage.
Kaarma said the entire incident occurred in 7 to 8 seconds, and that it took him only about 2 seconds to fire all four rounds.
Another young man accompanied Dede but was not at the scene when police arrived, said Sgt. Travis Welsh of the Missoula Police Department.
"He fled on foot when the shooting started and was subsequently located and interviewed," Welsh said.
The teen, whose name was not released, has not been charged with any criminal offense though the case continues to be under investigation and charges could be filed in the future, the sergeant said.
Kaarma told police that he shot high into the garage to avoid hitting the car parked inside.
However, the probable cause affidavit states impact points on the garage wall show three of the four shots were low and a fourth shot high. The impact marks also indicate the gun was swept across the garage.
Kaarma told police that he thought he was going to die and that he assumed the intruder had a knife or a tool from the garage, but he couldn't be sure because it was pitch dark and he couldn't see anything inside. Kaarma added that he thought the intruder would try to get out of the garage and that he didn't want him to get away.
Just four days before Dede's death, Missoula police had been called to a Great Clips hair cutting salon in response to a complaint that Kaarma had been "extremely vulgar and belligerent."
A Great Clips employee named Felene Sherbondy hat told police that when she asked Kaarma how he was doing, Kaarma replied; "I'm just waiting to shoot some f------ kid," according to an affidavit.
In that case, Kaarma is accused of telling Sherbondy that he had been burglarized a few times and was waiting up at night to catch someone and shoot them. When Sherbondy asked Kaarma to quit swearing, he told her he could say "whatever the f---" he wanted.
Kaarma appeared Monday in Missoula County Justice Court via video from the Missoula County Detention Facility. He did not enter a plea to the count of felony deliberate homicide.
The Missoula County Attorney's Office requested Kaarma's bail be set at $100,000. Kaarma's lawyer, Paul Ryan, requested his client be released on his own recognizance. Justice of the Peace Karen Orzech set Kaarma's bail at $30,000.
A detention officer at the Missoula County Detention Facility said they were prohibited from releasing a booking photo of Kaarma. He was released from jail by 5 p.m. MT Monday.
Arrangements are being made to return Dede's body to his family in Hamburg.
Dede was staying with a host family in Missoula, and he has no indication of a prior criminal history, Littman said.
Dede's father is a cab driver, his mother works in a coffee shop and Dede, who is of Turkish descent, was raised in a working-class section of Hamburg.
"We had support for students starting Sunday afternoon with the boys' soccer team," Littman said. "There are also grief counselors with local agencies available in the school for staff and students. Tuesday the counselors will set up two counseling centers in the school so that students who need support can get it."
In a similar but unrelated case, less than two hours before Dede's shooting, a Billings, Mont., homeowner shot and wounded a 19-year-old house guest that he thought was an intruder.
The Billings Gazette reported the 50-year-old homeowner was letting the teenager stay with him while he attended seminary.
The teenage house guest was making a phone call in the garage of the home at around 11 p.m. Saturday when the homeowner mistook him for an intruder and shot him in the chest. A Billings Police Department spokesperson said the house guest's injuries don't appear to be life threatening, and that it is unlikely the Billings homeowner will be charged with a criminal offense.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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