He was being a normal teenager. Sneaking out of the house, disobeying his parents, dabbling in rebellion. Caleb Gordley wanted to go to a party last Saturday, but his plans got snuffed out when his mom and dad grounded him for not cleaning his room.
But, in authentic teenage hardheadedness, he went anyway. There, the 16-year-old started drinking—to the point of being drunk—and when his friends dropped him off after their night of festivities, he stumbled to a window to sneak back up to his bedroom.
Except his friends dropped him off at the wrong house, and he was too wasted to notice, particularly since this home, like many in housing communities that have popped up around the country, looked almost exactly like the one he lived in two doors down.
He triggered the alarm and the homeowner, Donald West Wilder II, came out to investigate. He didn’t know Caleb, and he fatally shot him on the staircase that the boy mistakenly believed was leading up to his room.
Speculation is running rampant about what really happened in those wee hours of the morning, around 2 a.m., when no one else was awake and a man was startled out of his sleep by a teenager staggering around in the lower level of his home.
Was the kid really so much of a threat that the only option was to shoot him? Could there have been another way to respond to the situation, especially considering the shooter had been a volunteer firefighter for 20 years and had ostensibly been trained to deal with threatening, even dangerous situations?
Then again, the anxiety of fear and the element of surprise can rattle even the most level-headed emergency responder when the drama is unfolding in their own home.
Caleb’s parents, who are ever so gracious, have publicly acknowledged that the shooting was a terrible accident and have forgiven Wilder for killing their son. They’re grieving the senseless loss of Caleb’s life, but I can’t begin to imagine the guilt that their neighbor must be feeling. It’s a loss for everyone and for at least three people, life will never be exactly like it was before last Saturday night.
My heart goes out, but I hope this is all there is to the story.
Do you think gun laws should protect Wilder from prosecution?