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Frantic minutes preceded intruder's shooting in Prince George's

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 3, 2010

Adrenaline coursing through his body, Benjamin Jackson dropped to his knees and clasped his hands behind his head, forced to watch -- helplessly -- as the masked, armed intruder rummaged through his home.

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This, apparently, was Jackson's reward for trying to help his neighbor. Just minutes earlier, the 29-year-old maintenance man had spotted what looked like two men forcing a screaming woman into an apartment across the hall from his. Uncertain of what he had just seen, he knocked on the door. A man with a gun answered and forced him to walk backward into his own residence.

"Is the young lady next door okay?" Jackson thought as he knelt on his own floor. "What is he attempting to do? Is he going to kill me?"

Then Jackson grabbed his own gun.

"I just couldn't allow it to go down the way it was trying to go down," Jackson said in an interview on Thursday, his first public statements since Monday's fatal shooting, which Prince George's County police say seems to be a case of self-defense. "I know pretty much he was capable of doing what he had to do. First chance, I had to go for it."

Jackson shot and killed Keith L. Fletcher, 20, a father of two young boys who lived in Southeast Washington and in Oxon Hill with his mother. Law enforcement sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity because police are still looking for other suspects, said he was shot multiple times in the upper body -- but only after he squeezed off a shot at Jackson.

"It became a matter of life or death at that moment," Jackson said.

Officially, police will not say much about the case. They have not released even basic details, such as Fletcher's name and what happened inside Jackson's apartment. Jackson's account, however, was corroborated by several law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation. Family members confirmed Fletcher's name.

Shootings that are both fatal and justifiable are a rarity nationwide, which makes Jackson's case all the more astonishing. In 2008, FBI statistics show, there were 204 justifiable homicides by civilians using firearms. That compares with 9,484 criminal homicides involving firearms.

Fletcher's relatives questioned the preliminary ruling that the shooting was justified. Fletcher mentored youths and enjoyed sports -- and was not someone who was likely to participate in an armed robbery, they said.

They also questioned how Jackson was able to retrieve his gun so quickly, if he truly was being held at gunpoint by Fletcher. They said Fletcher was somehow set up by Jackson or others in the apartment building in Forestville.

"He not even that type of person," said Christina Anderson, 21, the mother of one of Fletcher's sons. "He's smart. He liked to work. He liked going out. He [was], like, all about his family. He's not no bad person."

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