By Diana Rocco and Steve Patterson
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A friend of a 30-year-old New Jersey man and father of two who was shot in the back by a homeowner who thought his truck was being broken into says it’s all a big misunderstanding.
“Rich was non-confrontational, he would avoid a fight if he had to…give you a shirt off his back kind of guy,” says Fran Kovalovich, the victim’s friend.
But the 56-year-old homeowner says he was allegedly defending his property. When his surveillance camera picked up a man going through the back of his truck just after 10 p.m. on Thursday in the Josephine Street Alley, that homeowner pulled a gun, killing the victim, before calling 911.
“[The officers] were met by the homeowner, who stated a man was trying to break into his vehicle and he shot him,” explains Lt. Norman Davenport.
The homeowner turned over his weapon and the surveillance video. But Kovalovich says the victim had been staying with a friend in the area overnight and that he drives a truck identical to the homeowner’s. He believes the victim may have taken the homeowner’s vehicle for his own truck.
“He has two little kids…coached his son’s baseball team; it’s shocking to hear,” Kovalovich adds.
The pickup truck is no longer in the spot and was taken as police evidence. The homeowner is being questioned while police review the Castle Doctrine, a Pa. law that allows a homeowner to defend his/her property. Neighbors say their street sees a lot of dumping and vandalism, and the homeowner kept a close eye on his property.
“If they were breaking into his property, then he was defending himself,” a neighbor identified as Thomas said. “He was just a hardworking guy that doesn’t bother anybody.”
Police say it may take them several days to determine whether or not to file charges.
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