Gun law triggers at least 13 shootings

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by bousozoku, Jun 11, 2006.

  1. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    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.
     
  2. bousozoku thread starter Moderator emeritus

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    The law does not require a foe to be armed.

    "I'm 4-foot-11. I'm 67 years old," Hammer said. "If you came at me, and I felt that my life was in danger or that I was going to be injured, I wouldn't hesitate to shoot you."

    In Washington, D.C., the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence says every self-defense claim should be evaluated.

    "What we're concerned about is that people heard about this new law and said, 'OK, the government is telling us we can stand our ground and never back off,' " said organization spokesman Peter Hamm. "Sometimes retreat really is the best reaction."

    Walt Plath made that choice.

    The 47-year-old Orlando construction worker remains grateful he did not shoot to kill when he was attacked May 22.

    "I know I had the right, but I didn't want to live with having killed someone," said Plath, who first retreated after being attacked while walking his dog at Mathews Park playground in College Park.

    Tackled from behind and stripped of his cell phone by a man accusing him of being a CIA agent, Plath walked to his pickup while his attacker followed him, he said. Warning the man to stay away, Plath retrieved a revolver from the glove box and fired a warning shot into the ground when the man wouldn't leave him alone.

    "I know people who are mentally ill. I see them in the park, and they're doing the best they can," said Plath, who held the man at gunpoint until police arrived. "I told him he could go anywhere in the world except closer to me."

    Police arrested the man, a transient, and let Plath return home.

    Struggling with fallout

    The shot that killed the stranger in Michael Brady's front yard upended his life and worsened a neighborhood dispute he blames for the shooting. He claims the man -- a friend of a neighbor -- began taunting him after drinking for hours and then threatened to punch him.

    Friends of the man Brady shot to death, Justin Boyette, are angry that a grand jury cleared Brady. They say Boyette, 23, was a friendly bear of a man at 6 feet 2 and 270 pounds. They claim Boyette simply wanted to shake Brady's hand.

    "A lot of people are going to die as soon as people figure out this law," said Eric Wagner, who hosted Boyette that day and has not stayed at the home across the street from Brady since then. "All you have to say is, 'I was afraid,' and you can blow someone away."

    Brady and his wife, who tried to resuscitate Boyette, have received hate mail and angry telephone calls since the shooting. Brady keeps a rifle at hand.

    "I'm having a hard time dealing with this psychologically," Brady said. "Unfortunately, I had to make a decision that day that changed my life forever. I wish I could turn back time."
     
  3. OutThere macrumors 603

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    Good thing I never go to floriduh.

    As far as I can tell it's just one more step in the wrong direction. So, nothing new. :rolleyes:
     
  4. bousozoku thread starter Moderator emeritus

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    Well, it's just the state. Positive progress is not an option. Still, I haven't really noticed a whole lot of negative press on this gun situation. I think it's okay, if someone else enters the house, actually.
     
  5. Thomas Veil macrumors 68020

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    So it's okay now to gun someone down just for entering your house in a drunken confusion, or shaking his fist in your face.

    Lord, the world is going mad...and Florida is leading the way.

    You know, if (notice I said if, NSA) I wanted to murder someone, the first thing I'd do is lure them to Florida where all I'd have to do is get them riled up. I could shoot them and claim self-defense.
     
  6. bousozoku thread starter Moderator emeritus

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    Well, come on, the mobsters helped the legislature put the laws together years ago. There was no extradition from Floriduh at all. You could commit murder, run to Floriduh, and everything was fine.
     
  7. Ugg macrumors 68000

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    Most of the south is off limits as far as travel is concerned. Why would anyone want to support such a culture of death?
     
  8. Desertrat macrumors newbie

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    All that the "Stand Your Ground" law says is that you are not obligated to try to run away from a threat. All other laws concerning the use of deadly force in self-defense apply. You cannot use deadly force in the absence of a deadly threat as seen by the proverbial reasonable and prudent person. The definition of reasonable and prudent will be determined by a Grand Jury in each case. If there is an indictment, then it's up to the regular jury.

    Some states' self-defense laws require even a person who's assaulted within their own home to make an effort to escape before they're allowed to use deadly force in self-defense. Not so in Florida, Georgia, Texas amd probably quite a few others.

    The media hype is the usual huffing and puffing of the ignoranti...

    'Rat
     
  9. bousozoku thread starter Moderator emeritus

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    It's not so bad and it's about time that someone who's in their own home to have the choice to act quickly. I still don't believe in using a gun but you should be able to use whatever you can to protect yourself from a threat when you're at home.

    If people act on their own in a non-threatening situation, they'll likely be charged for murder, just as in the past.
     
  10. solvs macrumors 603

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    Maybe, but people don't really seem to understand this law. So they make mistakes because they think they can shoot first and ask questions later whenever they want and get away with it. Which some are. People will get scared, they will act without thinking, and this type of thing will keep happening. Justified or not. I'm all for gun rights, people do have a right to defend themselves, their loved ones, and their homes.

    But I don't see how this law is going to do anything but make things worse.
     
  11. Chundles macrumors G4

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    You Americans and your guns. When are you going to realise that the Brits aren't coming after you anymore.
     
  12. bousozoku thread starter Moderator emeritus

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    It's those damned Revoluntionary War recreations--they're so realistic. :D
     
  13. Desertrat macrumors newbie

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    solvs, I agree as to knowledge of laws. But, that can apply to just about any sector within our body of law. As long as we err on the side of the rights of honest people to be secure in their homes, I'm satisfied.

    One thing as absolute fact, however: If you don't bother an honest person, you're in no danger from that person. An honest person who's not threatened is no danger to anybody. Any tourist or resident who is an honest person is in no danger from any other honest person.

    Bad Guys by definition don't obey any laws. I want the structure of law loaded to favor honest people.

    'Rat
     
  14. Desertrat macrumors newbie

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    Chundles, if you, yourself, were a Bad Guy, and came into my home with robbery as your intent, would it matter if I wrecked your skull with a baseball bat, stabbed you with a butcher knife, or used a firearm?

    The law says I can defend myself and my property. What difference does it make as to what I use?

    'Rat
     
  15. mactastic macrumors 68040

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    Hmm... that was the opposite sentiment from the article you posted from Mr. duToit regarding the NSA matter...
     
  16. solvs macrumors 603

    solvs

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    You can already do that. This law seems to err on the side of people getting shot outside of your home. That scares me a little, knowing some of the people I know.
     
  17. bousozoku thread starter Moderator emeritus

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    You can't do that in your home unless you're running away.
     
  18. Desertrat macrumors newbie

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    solvs, for all practical purposes, just stick with history: Although every time the subject of legal self-defense is brought up, somebody goes to hollering, "Blood in the streets!" The problem with that booger-hunting is that it doesn't happen. Hasn't happened.

    No, mac. If you'll recall I raised the issue of warrants vs. timeliness. Not the issue of the validity of the laws pertaining to warrants.

    'Rat
     
  19. mactastic macrumors 68040

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    Now, now... I'm not that slow. You were arguing that there was precedent for the validity of the NSA snooping laws due to an old SCOTUS case, in what can only be described as an argument based upon "if you've nothing to hide, then you have nothing to worry about when the government spies on you".
     
  20. Desertrat macrumors newbie

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    Well, okay, but it's still a matter of court decisions and interpretations of laws. I never have taken the "If you've nothing to hide..." view. That was nowhere in any of my argument.

    But don't hijack the thread. Take it to PM...

    'Rat
     
  21. mactastic macrumors 68040

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    Not to belabour the issue, but that was the entire point of the duToit article that you linked to and called 'an excellent clarifying essay" on the NSA matter. "You're not interesting enough" is just another way of saying "if you've nothing to hide...". I'll be happy to refresh your memory in PM if you insist...
     
  22. solvs macrumors 603

    solvs

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    I'm not saying that, but this doesn't seem like a good idea to me. I mean, it's one thing to defend yourself when someone breaks in to your home, but would you really feel safer with people concealing handguns while driving or just walking around as people seem to think they can do with this law? A guy felt threatened outside of his house, shot someone, and got off scotfree. Someone shot a man for threatening them with their fist. Someone else shot a guy as he was running away, outside the house. That just doesn't seem like a good thing to me.

    There's a fine line between defending yourself and being a vigilante.
     
  23. Desertrat macrumors newbie

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    "There's a fine line between defending yourself and being a vigilante."

    I follow your point, but I differ as to the definition of "vigilante". To me, a vigilante is one who actively seeks out an "evildoer" with the intent of taking the law into his own hands. That's the historical usage, anyway. (Google up "Plummer Gang" or "Sheriff Plummer" in Montana in the late 1800s.)

    One thing to remember is that the "Stand your ground" law is not the same as "get out of jail free". All shootings and homicides go through the DA's office and can be sent to a Grand Jury. It is up to the shooter to demonstrate that he had any form of "reasonable and prudent person" justification that he was in fear for his life.

    Shifting to the specifics of Texas law: If an armed Bad Guy flees, it is legal to shoot that person if the "reasonable and prudent" belief is that there is an ongoing threat to the community. Again, think DA and Grand Jury.

    Last, remember that CHL people have passed the FBI NCIC check. No felony record. In Texas, include the history of no serious misdemeanor within the last five years. Signed off by local law enforcement, with fingerprints and mugshot. Proficiency testing for shooting skill. Classroom time on conflict avoidance and resolution without violence. (How many non-CHL folks have ever had that?)

    Per the FDLE and the Texas DPS, the arrest record for anything at all among CHL people is a fraction of the population at large. That figures, since the majority of holders are teachers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, cab drivers and--in general--working class folks with (obviously) peaceful lifestyles.

    'Rat
     

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