MOORHEAD, Minn. -

A Moorhead man fires a gun while chasing a man who tried to break into his apartment.
 
But did the man have a legal right to fire his weapon in the name of self-defense? 

It turns out that's not an easy question to answer.

The fact it happened on the Minnesota side of the river makes it even murkier.
 
Moorhead police responded to a 911 call at 1916 18th Avenue South, around 4 a.m. Thursday, after a report of a shot fired.


The door to the building was locked.


Police say that was fortunate.
 
"A tenant had armed himself and was standing in the hallway, displaying the gun at the door the officers would have been coming into," says Lt. Tory Jacobson with the Moorhead Police Department.
 
Police say that man, Ahmed Jawad Al Gizawi, had the gun to protect his family from a potential intruder.
 
Lt. Jacobson explains, "An intoxicated individual had been turning on the apartment door handle rapidly and gave him alarm. This person wouldn't discontinue or comply with him."
 
Al Gizawi confronted the man, Nur Abdiwarfa, with the gun, and chased him through the apartment building, firing a warning shot.
 
Lt. Jacobson explains the warning shot, "is very concerning because he thought he was shooting into the ground. But we now know that he shot into the door into an apartment."
 
The question is, was firing the gun considered excessive force?

Well the answer to that question isn't as easy to come by as it may seem.
 
"It's complicated. It really is," admits lawyer Nick Thornton.
 
Thornton, with the Fremstad Law Firm, says you do have a right to use deadly force, like a gun, protect yourself, only in the most dire situations.
 
He says, "In Minnesota, you have to fear serious bodily injury or death."
 
In North Dakota, Thornton says you can respond to deadly force if someone breaks into your home. In Minnesota, if you can escape, you can't legally shoot them.
 
"The law's gonna require generally that duty to retreat," Thornton explains.
 
If you do use deadly force and it isn't warranted, you could face charges.
 
"You shoot someone and kill them, you could be charged with murder," Thornton warns.
 
Al Gizawi hasn't been charged yet in the incident.

But Thornton says since the potential intruder was already retreating, he won't be surprised if charges come.
 
He adds, "I expect they will under these circumstances, but he's lucky he didn't shoot the person."
 
Self-defense laws normally only apply inside a person's home.


Thornton says the hallway outside the apartment, where the shot was actually fired, is a legal gray area.