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Self-defense could be factor in Ex-Henry Clay football star's death, police say

Lexington police say self-defense could come into play in the investigation of the slaying of a former standout football player at Henry Clay High School who was shot to death Tuesday afternoon.

Police have made an arrest, but they have not charged anyone in the slaying of Jermaine Birch.

On Wednesday, Lexington police spokesman Lt. Doug Pape said police are trying "to determine if further charges will be appropriate." Pape would not say what role investigators think Deondrae D. Fishback, who was arrested Tuesday on weapon and drug charges, may have played in Birch's slaying.

"It is complicated," Pape said. "We are looking at it from every angle, and self-defense would be included in that."

Fishback, 20, is charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and trafficking in a controlled substance within 1,000 yards of a school. Fishback was taken into custody and questioned after police responded to a call about someone trying to break into a home about 1:43 p.m. Tuesday. They arrived to find Birch, 22, suffering from multiple gunshot wounds, according to police and coroner's reports.

Investigators could be trying to determine whether this case is covered by the castle doctrine or the home-intruder law, which was passed in 2006 and allows a citizen to shoot an intruder without fear of being arrested. The National Rifle Association has lobbied for such laws across the country.

Law officials say several factors come into play in determining whether a person is trying to break in.

Police have not released any other details about the initial call they received.

Witnesses said they saw Fishback shoot a gun before officers arrived at the Georgetown Street home, according to a police report.

Witnesses also told police that Fishback threw a liquor bag that contained 200 grams of a substance suspected to be marijuana and a digital scale into a closet before police officers arrived at the scene, the report says.

Fishback is scheduled to reappear in district court for a preliminary hearing at 8:30 a.m. Oct. 7.

On Wednesday night, at least 125 people gathered near Birch's home on Second Street for a candlelight vigil to remember the young man they knew as "Big Hungry."

The crowd assembled at a brick wall adorned with a poster featuring a picture of Birch in happy times, a jacket bearing his likeness, orange and yellow mums, a football and an angel. The group cried, hugged, sang religious songs and thanked God for their time with Birch.

His mother, Cheryl Birch, remembered how much her son loved to eat: "He loved chili dogs, and when I fixed them, he thought the whole pan was for him."

Jermaine Birch's twin sister, Joy "Little Hungry" Birch, said she "felt the butterflies" Tuesday afternoon and knew something was wrong with her brother. She'd gotten similar sensations when he sustained a broken leg while playing football and when he was shot in the eye with a BB gun, she said.

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