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Self-defense rejected in shooting case

Where appellant fired shots at a person who was running from him and toward a motel room, his self-defense claim is not well taken.

His conviction of maliciously shooting at an occupied building is affirmed.


Appellant Meade’ argued with Wills, who accused Meade of stealing. Both were holding guns but Wills began hitting Meade with his fists. Meade broke free and ran from the scene. Wills and others caught up with him, knocked him to the ground and beat him.

The group scattered after one of the guns fired. Meade testified that he was not sure if his gun or another gun. Wills ran toward the motel where he had initially engaged Meade while he was working on his parked car.

Meade stood in the parking lot and pointed his gun at Wills. A car hit Meade and knocked him down. Meade immediately got up and pointed his gun at the car, which was leaving the parking lot.

Meanwhile, Wills took cover behind a parked car and pointed his gun at Meade. Wills and his fiancé, Higdon, testified that Wills fired at Meade. Meade took cover behind his car.

Wills began running toward his motel room. “Just as Wills reached the motel room door, Meade stood and fired his gun in Wills’ direction. After Wills entered the motel room, Meade fired a second time in the direction of the room.

“Meade testified that his intention in firing the two shots toward Wills was not to strike, injure, or kill him, but rather, ‘[t]o get him away from me.’ Meade conceded that, at the time he fired the shots, Wills was ‘away’ from him.

“With his gun aimed at the motel room that Wills had entered, Meade entered his car through the driver’s door. As Meade began to drive away, Wills exited the motel room and shot at Meade’s car three times, striking the driver’s door; however, Meade was able to drive away from the scene.”

The motel’s video surveillance cameras recorded the entire incident from two different angles.

“The video footage was admitted into evidence at Meade’s trial for attempted murder, attempted malicious wounding, two related firearm charges, and maliciously shooting at an occupied building.”

Meade moved to strike at the close of the prosecution’s case and again at the close of all evidence. He argued he fired in self-defense and that there was no proof of malice “because he acted in the heat of passion.”

The court denied the motions, convicted Meade on the malicious shooting count and acquitted him on the remaining charges.


“In rejecting Meade’s claim of self-defense, the trial court concluded that, at the time he fired the shots at the motel room, Meade did not reasonably believe he was faced with an ‘eminent danger’ amounting to ‘an immediate threat to [his] safety.’ …

“From its view of the video evidence, the trial court concluded that, prior to Meade firing the shots, Wills was retreating into the motel room, and therefore, was not an immediate threat.”

A rational factfinder could have found that Meade had “a reasonable apprehension” that Wills posed an immediate threat of imminent harm.

But the facts, viewed in a light most favorable to the commonwealth, support a conclusion that Meade did not have an apprehension of immediate threat of imminent harm. Wills was running from Meade and toward a motel room when Meade fired the shots.

Inconsistent verdicts

“Meade next asserts that the trial court’s decision to acquit him of attempted murder, attempted malicious wounding, and the use of a firearm in the commission of those two attempts required the trial court also to acquit him of maliciously shooting at an occupied building.

“He argues that the conviction represents an impermissible ‘inconsistent verdict[]’ requiring us to reverse the conviction. …

“As pertinent here, both crimes contain elements requiring that the defendant possess a specific intent to kill or injure. …

“In contrast, Code § 18.2-279 contains no such intent requirement. Specifically, as pertinent here, Code § 18.2-279 provides that ‘[i]f any person … maliciously shoots at … any … building when occupied by one or more persons, whereby the life or lives of any such person or persons may be put in peril, the person so offending is guilty of a Class 4 felony.’ …

“[I]t is clear that ‘the offense as defined by the statute is not a specific intent crime; rather, it is a general intent offense.’”

Thus, “‘the essential elements’ of the offenses are not ‘identical[.]’…

“As a result, there is nothing inherently inconsistent about verdicts that acquit a shooter of attempted murder and attempted malicious wounding, but convict him or her of maliciously shooting at an occupied building in violation of Code § 18.2-279.”

Lesser included offense

“Meade argues that the trial court erred in convicting him of maliciously shooting at an occupied building as opposed to the lesser-included offense of unlawfully shooting at an occupied building. …

“In convicting Meade of maliciously shooting at the motel room, the trial court expressly found that he acted with malice and not under the heat of passion. …

“In arguing that he acted under the heat of passion, Meade raises multiple potential provocations. He notes that, prior to firing the two shots at the motel room, he ‘was beaten by a group of individuals, struck by a car[,] and fired upon[.]’

“These factors certainly could allow a rational factfinder to conclude at trial that, when Meade fired the shots, he did not possess a ‘deliberate mind[,]’ … [H]owever, on appeal, Meade has a greater task, for he must establish that no ‘rational trier of fact could have found’ that he acted with malice[.] …

“[T]he evidence includes more than just the events cited by Meade. The evidence includes Meade’s testimony explaining that he did not shoot toward the motel room with the intention to harm Wills or anyone else, but rather, fired the gun in Wills’ direction in an attempt ‘[t]o get [Wills] away from me.’

“Accepting this statement as true, Meade’s decision to fire was not the result of rage or passion, but represented a considered plan. The statement reflects both thought and calculation, and therefore, is sufficient to provide a reasonable basis for a factfinder to conclude he fired the shots with a ‘deliberate mind[.]’”


Meade v. Commonwealth, Record No. 0651-21-3, May 17, 2022. CAV (Russell). From the Circuit Court of the City of Roanoke (Ware). J. Thomas Love Jr .for appellant. Craig W. Stallard for appellee. VLW 022-7-136, 15 pp.

VLW 022-7-136

Virginia Lawyers Weekly