UPDATED at 10 a.m. Monday with police saying shooting was justified.
ST. LOUIS • A house sitter shot and killed a suspected burglar who kicked in the door of a home being rehabbed in the 2800 block of Magnolia Avenue early Friday, St. Louis police say.
Rico Kemp, 39, was shot to death at about 12:30 a.m. Friday. Kemp lived in the 2300 block of Collett Drive in Moline Acres.
The house sitter, a 48-year-old man, was not identified by police. He told detectives that he woke up after hearing someone break into the back door. He told police he was scared for his life so he fired one shot.
Kemp was shot in the chest.
The burglary and shooting were reported at 12:33 a.m. Friday. The 2800 block of Magnolia is in the Fox Park neighborhood. The house is in the half of that neighborhood that recently was designated as a local historic district, said Ian Simmons, president of the Fox Park Neighborhood Association.
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Katie O'Sullivan, a police department spokeswoman, said on Monday morning that police determined the shooting was justified and that no charges were being sought against the housesitter.
Missouri is one of several states with the "castle doctrine," a self-defense law that says someone is justified in using deadly force if he or she "reasonably believes such force to be necessary to defend" against the "use or imminent use of unlawful force" by someone else. The law says the person feeling threatened doesn't have to retreat from a dwelling or vehicle if the intruder enters unlawfully.
According to court files, Kemp has previous convictions for burglary, theft, property damage, possession of marijuana and domestic assault.
Kemp was released from parole on April 7 of this year, according to the Missouri Department of Corrections.
Ethel Mackey said her nephew, Kemp, was a troubled soul who couldn't get off drugs. He was staying with his father in Moline Acres until recently, taking to sleeping on park benches and in vacant buildings after the family urged him to give up the drugs.
"He just didn't want to listen," said Mackey, of Radcliff, Ky.
She said Kemp had talked on the phone with his father Thursday night. Kemp said he was going to try and stay with his sister, who lives near the Magnolia Avenue home, for the night. The sister didn't answer the phone, Mackey said.
"I guess that's when he went to this house," she said of the home on Magnolia Avenue. "I'm thinking this is his safe haven where he'd go to sleep. He probably didn't think anybody was staying there.
Property records maintained by the city show that the home is owned by Joe Freund, but Freund said he sold the property in August to a woman named Toni Easter. Easter was out of town and unavailable for comment, a woman who works with her said.
Wendell Byrd, 44, who lives nearby and was walking down Magnolia Avenue on Friday morning, told a reporter he thinks the house sitter was within his rights to protect the property.
Byrd survived a stab wound to his neck last September by a man he said broke into his apartment in the 3400 block of Cherokee Street. Byrd recalled waking up face down on his bed in a pool of blood.
With the knife still lodged in his neck, Byrd said he walked across the street to a short-term loan business to get help. He said he spent more than a week recovering at a hospital.
"If you break into my home, you're getting one," he said. "Coming into someone's house is a bit extreme."
Police said no arrests were made in Byrd's case.
Marty Luther, 41, who lives a few houses down on Magnolia Avenue with his wife and three young children, said he probably would have done the same as the house sitter to protect his family and property.
"It's unfortunate someone had to lose their life for something so stupid," Luther said.
Luther said he has concerns about safety in his neighborhood.
"If it happens again, I'm looking to get out," he said.
Joel Currier of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.