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Shooting in self defense? This is what Georgia law says about it

A criminal defense attorney and the Bibb County Sheriff's Office weighed in.

MACON, Ga. — An attempted robbery in Macon ended with the alleged thief at the emergency room after a restaurant clerk he tried to rob shot him.

That's according to the Bibb County Sheriff's Office.

RELATED: Macon man tries to rob restaurant, gets shot by employee

They say it happened at the China Inn restaurant on Vineville Avenue Saturday night.

The suspect is now in jail and the clerk who shot him is not--nor will he be.

The sheriff’s office says they don't intend to charge him with anything, because in his case, the shooting was legally justified.

It wasn't the only self defense shooting across the country this weekend.

Sunday morning, a man opened fire in a Texas church, killing two people. An armed parishioner quickly shot and killed the gunman.

"The threat was stopped thanks to the quick and heroic actions of the safety members inside that church," said White Settlement Police Chief JP Bevering.

RELATED: 2 church members, gunman killed in White Settlement church shooting

MORE: Meet the man who 'took out' the active shooter at a Texas church

Closer to home and a day later, the Bibb County Sheriff's Office says a man walked into the China Inn restaurant in Macon, pointed a gun at the clerk, and demanded money.

Instead, the clerk drew their own gun and eventually shot and wounded the suspect.

That clerk, the sheriff's office says, will not face any charges which brings us to the question: What are the circumstances under which Georgia law permits a person to shoot someone else?

Defense attorney Frank Hogue has the answer, describing Georgia's self-defense laws as some of the broadest in the country.

"If you are in danger of being killed yourself or in danger of receiving a serious bodily injury, and you are armed, you may shoot to kill, and it applies wherever you are. Your home, your business, on the street," he said.

Hogue says that stance flows from a part of the Georgia Code that revolves around a specific law known as "No duty to retreat."

It says citizens have "no duty to retreat and (have) the right to stand his or her ground and use force.. .including deadly force," in defense of "self or others," of "habitation," or "in defense of property other than a habitation."

A related law, 16-3-21, shines more light on the issue. It reads:

"A person is justified in threatening or using force against another when and to the extent that he or she reasonably believes that such threat or force is necessary too defend himself or herself or a third person against such other's imminent use of unlawful force."

However, there are limitations.

16-3-21 says a person can only use force when "he or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself or herself or a third person or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony."

Other restrictions also play a role, including a stipulation that citizens may not use force while attempting themselves to commit a felony.

Bibb County Sheriff's Office Lieutenant Billy Skinner, who helps oversee the department's training program, agrees with Hogue's take on the law but also stresses how serious it is.

"In our world the use of deadly force is always a last resort," he said. "Hopefully for every civilian they're never confronted with a situation where that becomes a final option."

Skinner added that, "if you choose to carry, make sure you're carrying legally, make sure you know the capabilities of what you're carrying and your capabilities with it."

He says gun safety classes, like the ones the sheriff's office offers, can help people who are new to gun ownership learn the basics and familiarize themselves with their weapon.

As for the China Inn case, a store employee we spoke to Monday said they had no comment, except to say they were thankful nobody on their staff was hurt.

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