A 17-year-old black teen, possibly unarmed, is shot dead in Florida. The attorney for his alleged shooter, who is white, invokes the state’s controversial “stand your ground” law.
The similarities between the shooting deaths of Jordan Davis, a part-time Cobb County resident killed Nov. 23 in Jacksonville following a dispute over loud music, and Trayvon Martin are striking, and new evidence released Monday appeared to bolster the parallels. Martin was the Sanford, Fla., teen fatally shot in February 2012 by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, who was charged last April by Fourth Judicial Circuit Court State Attorney Angela Corey — the lead prosecutor in the Davis case.
The attorney for Davis’ shooter, Michael Dunn — charged with first-degree murder and three counts of attempted murder — told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Tuesday that the stand your ground law will likely factor heavily in his client’s defense.
The 45-year-old software engineer, who remains in a Jacksonville jail, pleaded not guilty to all counts. Defense attorney Cory Strolla insists Dunn acted in self-defense, but so far police have not recovered a shotgun the South Florida resident said was pointed at him before he allegedly fired at least eight bullets into an SUV, striking the victim twice.
“In order for [Dunn] to claim self-defense, there better have been a gun in that car,” John Phillips, representing Davis’ family in civil litigation, told the AJC. Davis is buried in Marietta, where he lived part-time with his mother.
Phillips said there is no proof that anyone in the SUV discarded a firearm, as the defense has claimed.
“To me, it slams the door on any notion that there was another gun,” he said, noting that none of the calls to 911 made reference to a second weapon.
In the 911 recording released Monday, one of the witnesses supported the defense’s contention that Davis and the three other occupants inside the red Dodge Durango briefly fled the scene, returning before police arrived.
The witness told the operator that the teens “looked like they were either looking … or trying to stash something inside the car.”
According to the caller, the SUV circled the parking lot of an adjoining shopping center before returning to the gas station where the shots were fired.
“They didn’t even pull into a parking space,” Phillips said. “And we’re talking 60 to 90 seconds. There was no chance for anything to be hidden or purged.”
But Strolla, noting there were about a dozen large trash receptacles in the vicinity of the shooting, said he believes Davis’ friends were gone for much longer than that.
“If Jordan Davis had not been critically injured I don’t think they would’ve returned to the scene,” said Strolla, in his first interview about the case.
Strolla said the only one of Davis’ friends to call 911 did not ask for police assistance.
“The kid is as cool as a cucumber,” he said. “If someone had shot at you unprovoked wouldn’t you be calling the police?”
Strolla said the gun Dunn claimed was aimed at him was not recovered because the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office “never looked for it.”
According to sheriff’s deputies, Dunn fled the scene with his girlfriend, telling deputies he feared for his safety. He was arrested the following day. Dunn, who has no previous criminal history, told deputies he had asked the teens to turn down their music, prompting a verbal fracas.
He’s due back in court next Tuesday, at which time Strolla said he’ll petition the judge to reconsider bond for his client.