Prosecutors say a Sullivan man who allegedly shot and killed his brother acted in self-defense under state law.
First-degree murder charges were dismissed against Thomas “T.J.” Easter II, 36, who was indicted last year in the April 13, 2017, death of John Easter, 32, Leasburg.
According to Franklin County Prosecutor Bob Parks, when his office reviewed the case it was determined that under state statute, Easter acted in self-defense.
“We reviewed the whole case and based on new statutes we determined this to be self-defense,” he said. “The defendant was in his home with his father when his brother came in and started the fight — it was a justifiable homicide.”
Parks explained that the decision was made after reviewing a less-restrictive “stand your ground” legislation that took affect Jan. 1, 2017.
Sullivan police alleged that T.J. Easter shot his brother with a handgun following an argument and shoving between the two men.
According to the probable cause statement filed with the Franklin County Prosecutor’s office by Sullivan police last year, T.J. Easter and his father were in the front room of the home when John Easter entered through the front door and began yelling at the suspect about his vehicle that had been tampered with.
In 2016, Missouri loosened gun regulations by expanding the state’s “castle doctrine” into the commonly called “stand your ground” law. The law lets someone defend themselves or their property, regardless of their location, using deadly force and without a requirement to retreat.
According to Sullivan police, officers were dispatched to a home in the 600 block of East Vine Street around 10:30 p.m. April 13.
T.J. Easter had been lying on the couch and stood up and approached his brother, police said.
Authorities allege that an argument began between the men and the victim pushed T.J. Easter, who stepped back so there was a recliner between himself and his brother.
Police said John Easter attempted to punch his brother when T.J. Easter retrieved a pistol that he had hidden under a coffee table.
The suspect pointed the gun at the victim who continued to move toward him. T.J. Easter fired one shot that missed John Easter.
The brothers continued to argue, police said, and T.J. Easter fired another shot striking John Easter in the leg as the victim was turning away, toward the front door, authorities said.
The suspect hid the pistol in the bedroom when John Easter collapsed, police allege.
An EMS crew treated John Easter at the scene before he was transported to Missouri Baptist Hospital, Sullivan, where he later died.
T.J. Easter was taken into custody and transported to the Sullivan Police Department.
According to police, T.J. Easter stated that he did not think the first shot struck his brother, so he shot at him a second time.