Florida’s controversial ‘Stand Your Ground’ law is back on the national stage after the murder of yet another unarmed, black teenager in the parking lot of a Jacksonville, Florida gas station last Friday.
In a tragedy eerily similar to the Trayvon Martin earlier this year that outraged the nation, Michael Dunn remains in a Jacksonville jail after shooting 17-year-old Jordan Russell Davis to death following an argument over loud music.
Dunn, a white man who was in town with his girlfriend to attend his son’s wedding, was in his own car when he pulled up alongside the SUV in which the teenagers were sitting and asked them to turn their music down. After an exchange of words, he fired between eight and nine shots at the vehicle, several of which hit Davis to cause his death.
Dunn drove away from the scene following the shooting.
“He just reached in his glove compartment and started shooting rounds, just unloading the gun in the car and from my understanding, he was really aiming first and foremost towards Jordan, but he continued to just shoot all the rounds,” said Davis’ mother, Lucia McBath.
Dunn says he fled the scene because he feared the teenagers had called some of their friends to come help them.
Investigators say the teens had no weapons, while McBath said childproof locks prevented her son from getting out.
“I just knew someone had shot him, but I didn’t know why,” she said. “Then when I found out it was just over loud music I couldn’t understand. Over loud music. You don’t like their music then so what. It’s just music and they are kids, they are teenagers and they all play their music loud. But that’s no reason to shoot, no reason to kill anyone,” she said.
McBath called Dunn’s decision to flee the scene “unconscionable.”
Dunn was arrested on Saturday and is being held without bail after being charged with murder and attempted murder. His lawyer said that her client acted “responsibly and in self-defense.”
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During a telephone interview with a local TV station, Dunn’s daughter Rebecca defended her father, saying he was responding to a threat and did not intend to kill anyone.
“He got threatened and had to do what he had to do, and it’s sad, so sad,” Rebecca Dunn said. “A terrible tragedy on both sides. It really is. I don’t know. What are you going to do in that situation? You don’t know what you are going to do. He just reacted.”
Dunn’s self-defense claim falls under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which was the same claim used in the defense of George Zimmerman, the man accused of murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in February.
Zimmerman is awaiting trial.
Jordan, who was a student at Samuel W. Wolfson High School, a magnet school in Duval County, will be buried in his hometown of Marietta, Ga. He is survived by his parents and a brother.
Florida corporate records show Dunn is vice president of Dunn & Dunn Data Systems in Vero Beach.
Davis’ family family plans to start a foundation in his honor for at-risk youth who have been the victims of tragedy.
McBath says she still can’t make sense of her son’s death, but said she doesn’t consider it a hate crime.
“We don’t know where he was or what kind of dark place he was in at that moment, but something snapped in that man,” she said. “Something snapped in him, so we are not looking at it as the hate crime because that’s not going to honor Jordan.”
Florida is among 24 states to have “Stand Your Ground” laws on the books that deem a person justified in the use of deadly force if feeling threatened. In Florida, once self-defense is invoked, the burden is on the prosecution to disprove the claim.