If you are looking for a definitive Virginia law explaining when deadly force may be employed to defend your home, you will not find it. Such a law was proposed las GA session by former Del. John Welch, but it was defeated due to opposition from VA’s Commonwealth’s Attorneys, leaving us with undefined case law only, guaranteeing virtually every case of self defense will be decided by the Commonwealths’ Attorney’s personal prejudices or a jury.
In principle, you are allowed to use deadly force if you reasonably believe you are at risk of loss of life or serious injury due to the unlawful act of another. But what is reasonable? It is not the same for everyone. A criminal hearing his door being breached might reasonably expect it to be the police, but an innocent person would only expect a criminal intent on doing him harm. Who knows what would be reasonable for a person committing a minor crime like misdemeanor possession of marijuana? You do not lose your right to defend your life by committing a misdemeanor.
In regards to the Ryan Frederick case, a lot of people seem to be getting the rules of safe hunting(be sure what you are shooting at, be aware of what lies beyond the target, etc) confused with the requirements for using deadly force in self defense. You are not required to positively identify a threat before defending yourself, you need only be convinced, to the standard of a reasonable man in your circumstances, that a someone is unlawfully placing you at risk of your life or serious injury. It doesn’t really matter if you turn out to have been wrong, so long as a ‘reasonable man’ in that circumstance would have believed himself to be in mortal peril. If you are right that it is a criminal, it is justifiable homicide, if you are wrong, but reasonably thought it was a criminal intent on doing you harm, it is excusable homicide, but either is a defense against a charge of murder.
Once that threshold is reached, you are entitled to use deadly force until the threat no longer exists, again to the standard of the reasonable man. It doesn’t matter if you fire one shot, or a hundred, or use a flamethrower. Those are questions of tactics, not legality. And it doesn’t mean you can’t shoot through a door or a couch. You are not required to let the thug shoot first or warn him, or even get a good look at you. In fact, you would be a fool to give up any tactical advantage once you are engaged in a battle for your life.
Applying this to Ryan Fredericks case, it makes no difference that it turned out to be police at his door and not thugs if a reasonable man in his circumstance would not have known that was the case. It was not his responsibility to check their identity or turn on lights or look for badges, as any of these would have increased his risk of death if it turned out it was a criminal home invasion. He had no duty to let them cross his threshold before taking action, it was a home invasion from the first strike intended to breach his door.
In my opinion, the police created a reasonable expectation in Fredericks mind that he was the subject of a criminal attack. It was the responsibility of the police, who created the circumstances, to be sure those inside the home knew the action was police serving a legal warrant. If Frederick could not hear them over the noise of his dogs barking, it was the duty of the police to use sufficient amplification (can the CPD not afford bullhorns?) to be sure he heard them, not Frederick’s to place his life at further risk by giving up tactical advantage by holding fire until any doubt was resolved.
Further, if harm came to bystanders when Frederick fired on what he believed to be criminal home invaders, that is still the responsibility of the police who initiated the confrontation. Whether Det. Shivers was at the door or simply in the line of fire makes no difference, though those who ordered the raid might well be guilty of negligent homicide.
In the end, Frederick did not go looking for trouble. The police brought trouble to his door, and they are entirely responsible for anything that happened as a result of the confusion they created by a poorly planned raid on his home.
We need to have definitive law in Virginia spelling out our rights to defend our homes as all this is really too much to consider when your door gets kicked in in the night.