Orlando Sentinel Special Report: Michael Brady didn't think about his rights when he shot and killed a stranger in his front yard. He says he was just scared. Brady is one of at least 13 people in Central Florida who pulled the trigger this year under a new law that loosens restrictions on the use of deadly force in self-defense. They killed six men and wounded four more. All but one of the people shot were unarmed. So far, three of the shooters have been charged. Five have been cleared; the other cases are under review. It is too early to tell whether the law makes Floridians safer or puts them at greater risk. There are no statistics on the number of self-defense claims statewide before or after the law took effect Oct. 1. But an Orlando Sentinel review of five months of court records in Orange, Osceola, Lake, Polk, Seminole and Volusia counties shows widespread differences in the way claims are investigated and prosecuted. The head of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association said the law has given people who are too quick to fire a weapon "another defense." "In my mind, it was an unnecessary law," association President Bruce Colton said. Critics of the "Stand Your Ground" law -- which created nationwide controversy -- predicted recklessness and a bloody outcome last fall when Florida became the first state to enact it. Supporters said the law allows them to defend themselves without fear of being arrested or sued. "You're not talking about freaks and geeks slinging guns around like Dirty Harry. . ." said Brady, 43, of Winter Haven, who in April killed a stranger who was threatening him with his fist. "I do believe in Americans having a right to protect themselves, but strapping [pistols] on their hips and going back to Western days -- absolutely not." Inconsistent methods The new law requires claims of self-defense to be investigated but prohibits police from detaining or arresting a suspect without clear evidence of another motive -- such as anger, frustration or malice. Whether the new law has added too much gray area for investigators is unclear. But there is a wide range in how investigations of self-defense claims have been conducted. Some have involved more than 20 hours of detectives' time, while other cases were never reviewed by detectives. In one case, for instance, an off-duty Maitland police officer was arrested after shooting and wounding his host and another guest at a Jan. 15 party near Casselberry. Despite claiming he feared for his life, Daniel Metevier was jailed by the Seminole County Sheriff's Office on two counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. The charges were dropped two months later, after Metevier, 30, underwent a lengthy tape-recorded interview with prosecutors. Metevier provided his medical records to prove he underwent knee surgery shortly before the shooting. He claimed he was unable to defend himself, partly because of the injury, without resorting to deadly force, according to the recording. Prosecutors, who spent about 15 hours interviewing witnesses, focused their questioning on Metevier's state of mind before the shooting and why he was carrying a police-issue sidearm while drinking. "I wasn't so inebriated I didn't know my name. I was thinking logically," Metevier said. The Brevard-Seminole State Attorney's Office decided not to prosecute Metevier, a reserve police officer, because of "insufficient evidence to rebut defendant's . . . case of self-defense," records show. An administrative investigation to determine Metevier's future as a police officer may be concluded by Maitland police by next week. In a January case in Orange County, the Sheriff's Office did not ask the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office to decide whether a homeowner with a shotgun should have been charged in the wounding of a drunken intruder who stumbled into the residence at 4 a.m., mistaking it for a friend's house. And a detective did not respond after a teenager was shot in March. Instead, the agency's on-call detective told deputies at the shooting scene to forward their reports to the State Attorney's Office for review. Carlos Avilez, 15, was suspected of attempting to steal a car near Orlando when the owner's husband opened fire with a 9 mm pistol, hitting the teenager in the back of the leg. A witness told deputies the teen may have been shot as he was fleeing. "I don't see how he could have been afraid of my son when he had a gun and shot him running away," said Carlos' mother, Maria Avilez. Her son pleaded guilty to breaking into the car. The only account from the shooter, Michael Graham, 34, is a brief, barely legible statement saying he felt threatened by the teen. "I'll pass," said Graham, when asked to describe what happened. No decision has been made on whether Graham will face charges. "Ultimately, it's their decision," sheriff's spokeswoman Deputy Barbara Miller said of prosecutors. "We just apply logic as to whether the force was excessive and not self-defense." The Sheriff's Office does not have a written policy on how to investigate self-defense claims. "The case was handled the way we would any aggravated battery without a life-threatening injury," said sheriff's spokesman Jim Solomons. "I don't know if the new law has impacted or affected the way we conduct these types of investigations." Other law-enforcement agencies said it is customary for a detective to investigate whenever someone is shot and wounded or killed. The lead homicide prosecutor in Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties, Assistant State Attorney John Aguero, said that is routine, and the agencies he represents are expected to refer all self-defense cases to prosecutors for review. The Orlando Police Department takes a similar approach and has pursued murder charges in three of the four cases of deadly self-defense it has handled this year. "You have to investigate every shooting," said Sgt. Rich Ring, head of the homicide squad. "If you don't, you won't have the answer. You won't be able to tell if there was reasonable fear." Ring said the new law creates the illusion of a "wave-the-magical-wand" legal defense. "In the old days, we'd say 'Where is the weapon?' Now the person only needs to have a 'reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm' and be able to articulate it," Ring said. "But what's reasonable fear? It's so vague, it's different for every one." An emotional decision The National Rifle Association says common sense should determine how self-defense claims are handled. "One would hope that's the way the system would always work," said former NRA President Marion Hammer, one of Florida's most powerful lobbyists in Tallahassee. "Nobody has the right to decide what's in your mind and heart when you're under attack. So the important thing is to make it more dangerous for the attacker than the victim." Under the old law, Michael Brady would have been obligated to retreat, if possible, before shooting the man who trespassed and threatened to beat him in his Polk County front yard. With the changes, Florida dropped its longstanding requirement for anyone facing a threat of death or serious harm to try to retreat before responding with deadly force. Prosecutors and law-enforcement officials opposed the move. The state Legislature approved it after lobbying by gun owners and the NRA. The no-retreat -- or "Stand Your Ground" -- provision was so popular, 10 other states quickly adopted it. Similar legislation is pending in five more states.