Two businessmen indicted on first-degree murder charges in the shooting of an intruder in their East Baltimore warehouse are hoping to draw national attention to their case, and have started a Web site advertising a legal defense fund with the slogan: "Help Those Who Defended Themselves."
The Web site, which features a picture of a bald eagle in profile against the backdrop of an American flag, seeks money for Kenny Der and Darrell Kifer of Harford County, who shot Tygon Walker, 37, the night of June 30.
The patriotic imagery - inspired by a poster commemorating the World Trade Center attacks, according to the site's designer - is in keeping with themes that have surfaced since the indictment. In online chat groups and in social gatherings, the men's supporters have talked of the Second Amendment and a person's right to protect himself and his property.
"The public is very enraged about this whole situation," said Ken Brady, a Towson businessman listed as the fund manager on the Web site. "It blows our mind that this could happen in today's society. We just thought this was a natural right that we had."
The strategy is to encourage like-minded people - "people who feel that basic values need to be protected ... without threat of criminal prosecution" - to contribute to the cause, said one of Der's attorneys, Joseph Murtha.
A Web site created on behalf of his most famous client, Linda R. Tripp, helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for her defense, Murtha said. It also created a forum that allowed supporters across the country to keep in touch with one another.
He estimated that Der and Kifer will have to spend tens of thousands of dollars each to fight the murder charges. To that end, national attention can't hurt, he said.
The television program 48 Hours has shown interest in the case, Murtha and others said, for an episode called "Is It a Crime?"
Although the National Rifle Association has so far taken no notice of the men's case, NRA spokesman Greg Costa said they could apply for help from that organization's legal defense fund.
Friends of Der and Kifer hope their outrage over the indictment will reverberate across the country, translating into donations.
"Where is the justice when we as Americans are punished for protecting ourselves from criminals who threaten to kill us?" asks a statement that was supposed to be posted on the Web site by today. "This case sets a dangerous precedent for all of us as law abiding citizens," it reads in all capital letters.
The statement says any leftover money will be used "to support other [Second Amendment] infringements," and asks people to write to Mayor Martin O'Malley and city State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy.
Last month a Baltimore grand jury indicted Der and Kifer, both 35, after hearing evidence that Walker was shot many times all over his body, including in his back. The men's attorneys say Walker, who was holding a hammer, threatened to kill the men when they discovered him inside the building.
Der and Kifer used the warehouse as a drying area for their refinishing business.
Brady, who owns a Cluck U Chicken restaurant in Towson, met Der and Kifer six years ago, when Der was working as a DJ at a Towson bar. Besides helping organize the Web site, Brady has printed 2,000 business-sized cards promoting the fund and is handing them out liberally, he said. He said donations have come in, but would not say how much.
The site's designer is another friend of Der's, Eric C. Smith, who also works as a bouncer at the Mount Washington Tavern in North Baltimore, where Der is a disc jockey. Smith posted the site in a preliminary form last week and hopes to have it finished by today, he said.
Asked about the design, Smith said, "Kenny Der asked me to do something that was patriotic." He said he got the idea from a poster he saw at a gas station commemorating the attacks Sept. 11.
Der and Kifer are scheduled to be arraigned next month in Baltimore Circuit Court.