Prosecutors Reject Charges in FL Shooting Citing Stand Your Ground

The States Attorney's office in Pinellas County, FL today announced an off-duty security guard who followed someone he believed was driving erratically which led to a confrontation and the guard fatally shooting the man he followed will not face charges because the shooting was justified under the state's stand your ground law.

The shooting occurred a week after Trayvon Martin was shot in a different county. The case generated a lot of local attention with calls for an arrest but no national attention. Race was not an issue, as both the shooter and victim were white. The victim's family says this was not a case of Stand Your Ground. [More...]

The shooter, 23 year old off-duty security guard Seth Browning, did not call 911 to report the erratic driving. He just followed the driver, Brandon Baker, intending to get his license plate. Baker pulled over and Browning pulled up behind him. Baker got out of his car and approached Browning's car, to ask why Browning was following him. Browning says Baker punched him. He pepper-sprayed Baker and then shot him. Baker's brother, in another car, followed when he saw he the two cars pull over. He got out of his car when he saw his brother fall, and Browning turned the gun on him but didn't shoot.

The state's attorney says in his 9 page memo Browning did nothing wrong in following Baker.

"It is unfortunate that Seth Browning chose to follow Brandon Baker as he turned onto Boot Ranch Road, but there is nothing improper or illegal in his doing so. The brief interaction on East Lake Road, as described by Seth Browning, does not suggest a road rage scenario whereby Seth Browning would reasonably believe he was creating or joining a confrontation.

Browning's reason for following Baker? According to the memo:

"Per Seth Browning, his motivation to follow Brandon Baker was based on attempting to get his tag number (due to erratic driving) and his curiosity which is not controverted by any other evidence. Based upon Brandon Baker's level of intoxication, it appears highly likely Brandon Baker was driving erratically, and the getting of his tag number was the reasonable actions of a concerned citizen."

In conclusion, the prosecutor writes:

"In conclusion, based upon the quickly unfolding circumstances, Seth Browning was the victim of a burglary/battery (statutorily defined as a forcible felony), when Brandon Baker attacked Seth Browning as he sat in his vehicle. Seth Browning attempted to use non-deadly force when he pepper-sprayed Brandon Baker in response.

Browning was not arrested after the shooting or during the six months of the investigation. because police were conducting an investigation.

An autopsy showed Baker had cocaine and alcohol in his system. The prosecutor wrote:

"Brandon Baker's level of intoxication, from both alcohol and cocaine, makes it reasonable to conclude that Seth Browning's description of Brandon Baker's aggression is plausible."

Browning said he feared great bodily harm if Baker didn't stop punching him. He said his pepper spray failed to stop the attack and he had nothing else at hand. The prosecutor writes that while Browning had no duty to retreat, he had no available option of retreat.

Seth Browning had no legal duty to retreat before using the deadly force; which factually did not appear to be an option ...

There were conflicting witness reports as to whether Baker "attacked Seth Browning as he sat in his vehicle."

Brandon's family says in their Change.Org petiton this was a case of road rage, not Stand Your Ground. They say Browning engaged in four acts of aggression:

1st act of aggression on Browning's part was to tailgate Brandon at the late hour he did (2am).

2nd act of aggression was to pull in behind him as Brandon pulled to the side of the road to allow his pursuer to go around him.

3rd act of aggression was to pepper spray Brandon in the face as he approached Browning’s car to find out what his intentions were. (Keep in mind that Browning's car was not a police car, nor were there flashing police lights which would alert Brandon to remain in his vehicle.)

4th act of aggression was to deliver a “killshot” to Brandon as he fell to Browning's car covering and rubbing his face.

According to Baker's family:

Seth Browning "CHOSE" to follow and tailgate Brandon Baker, instead of calling in his tag number to the proper authorities, telling them he was concerned about his driving.

Seth Browning "CHOSE" to pull over behind Brandon Baker, instead of just going around and driving home.

Seth Browning "CHOSE" to pepper spray Brandon Baker, instead of driving away.

Seth Browning "CHOSE" to shoot and kill Brandon Baker, after he pepper sprayed him in the face.

Bottom line:

1. Off-duty security guard with concealed weapons permit and gun in vehicle decides to follow a driver based on suspicion he is driving erratically and wants to get his license tag to tell police.
2. The man he suspected of erratic driving approaches the off-duty guard and punches him.
3. Believing the the man he suspects of erratic driving will keep hitting him, causing him severe bodily injury, the off-duty guard shoots and kills him.

The state's attorney decides the killing is justifiable homicide under Stand Your Ground and declines to bring charges.

In the same state, with the same law, and similar although not identical facts, George Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder.

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  • Display: Sort:
    One common (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by lentinel on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 03:55:58 AM EST
    denominator in these tragic episodes is that the pursuer is a citizen, not a representative of the Police Department.

    The buck, in my opinion, rests with the fact that we have an inadequately staffed, inadequately funded, and inadequately paid Police Department. Add to that, they are diverted from the serious work of protecting us by having to be involved in the absolutely idiotic and unending war on drugs.

    So we have citizens roaming around as unpaid and unsophisticated annexes, either attempting to do what the Police should be doing, or just out playing cowboy.

    Police and Firefighters are paid nowhere near what the value of their work deserves. It is almost a tradition to underpay people who put their lives on the line. With respect to the Police, the result is often graft and vigilantism. With respect to the Firefighters, it is the kind of treatment they were accorded during and after 9/11. They had non-working communications equipment. And then they were denied treatment. Instead they were given a new title, first-responders, some bagpipes, and a hearty handshake from the Gargoyle of New York, Giuliani.

    I couldn't disagree more. (3.50 / 2) (#16)
    by Chuck0 on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 12:40:53 PM EST
    We are by and large over-policed. Police departments are purchasing military hardware at an alarming rate. Complete waste of taxpayer money. There are many departments that could well afford a few layoffs.

    When (5.00 / 1) (#17)
    by lentinel on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 02:21:31 PM EST
    is the last time you saw a cop on the beat?

    Getting military hardware is not serving the people.
    It is serving the government to repress us, not to protect us.

    It has nothing to do with what I was talking about.

    The police have become the enemy for two reasons, imo.
    One is the so-called war on drugs which has criminalized just about everybody in the country.

    The other is that the police are used by the State to further suppress citizens.

    None of this relates to the function that is most important.
    Protect and serve the public.
    They're not doing that.
    But I blame the government.


    I don't agree (none / 0) (#28)
    by TeresaInPa on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 08:25:14 AM EST
    with your comment. I think that drugs are responsible for a hell of a lot of misery crime and murder and making them legal will not stop that.  It's a long argument and off topic so I won't go there.  But I don't think your opinion deserved a 1 rating so, there ya go.

    you may not give someone (none / 0) (#32)
    by Jeralyn on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 10:41:31 AM EST
    a "1" rating because you disagree with them. "1" ratings are to alert people to trolls.

    If he hadn't been armed... (5.00 / 3) (#13)
    by unitron on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 09:53:45 AM EST
    ...what would he have done differently?

    If he didn't want a confrontation, why did he pull in behind Baker when Baker pulled over?

    Why couldn't he have defended himself by putting the car in reverse and getting away?

    That's far too logical for the SYG crowd (5.00 / 3) (#14)
    by shoephone on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 10:35:57 AM EST
    It just seems to me (5.00 / 5) (#19)
    by NYShooter on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 06:26:47 PM EST
    that the SYG law is so flawed that the only thing a shooter has to do to be able to commit murder at will is to make sure there are no eyewitnesses around to refute his/her version of what happened. Everything is so skewed to the shooter's advantage that the only thing he has to remember is the phrase, "I thought...."

    This law is not a law designed to make us safer; it's a political law designed by politicians pandering to the yahoo, NRA crowd. This is no different than some slimy politicians listening to a bunch of brain dead jerks watching a newscast about some crime being committed, and following with, "they oughta lock'm up and throw away the key." Bingo, and from that we get the onerous laws we have now that make us the most punitive society on earth.


    You're missing the point, (5.00 / 3) (#23)
    by NYShooter on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 03:30:23 PM EST
    Fredquick21 wasn't talking about "..living in a nearby apartment or even a P.I. for her jealous husband." He was talking about a (hypothetical) lecherous stalker committing murder on a girl who spurned his sexual advances. Point being, thanks to SYG & its supporters, if there are no witnesses he can kill her and continue on his merry way to do it again and again.

    And, if the victim (and the only witness) is dead, your advice, "..it's better not to say anything," is really quite moot, isn't it?

    The point (1.00 / 1) (#25)
    by spectator on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 03:04:16 AM EST
    was as clear as a babbling brook in September

    well this one hits home (5.00 / 2) (#30)
    by TeresaInPa on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 09:30:58 AM EST
    Several years ago I was behind a guy who was all over the road.  I was afraid he was going to cause an accident that was going to involve me.  Since I thought it was going to involve me I was not willing to just stop or take another route, leaving him to injure or kill someone else.  I stayed behind him and when he pulled in to a 7/11 parking lot I pulled in after him and started to write down his license number. There was no one there except me him and the one person in the store.
    I told the guy I wanted him to call someone sober to pick him up. I really hate to see people get DUI's because I think the punishments are too harsh.  Unless someone is hurt or killed, unless there is an accident, property damaged, I don't think someone's whole life should be ruined because they drove drunk.
    Anyway, the guy was very hostile of course, he was drunk.  If he had come at me, pinned me to the ground or in my car and started hitting me and I had a gun would I have used it?  Yes, I would have if I really believed my life were in danger.    But I didn't carry then.  I do now for practical reasons.  
    Here is the thing, I wasn't wrong to follow him and stop, trying to keep him from killing himself or someone else. Unfortunately for him and fortunately for me the local cop on patrol stopped just a few minutes after we did.
    I am surprised at the level of self righteousness on this diary from people who think legal behavior is grounds for physical assault but physical assault is not grounds of self defense.  I wasn't getting it for a while, but I think I do now.  It's a "my team" thing.  My team, the democratic team or the "left team" is against guns. People who carry guns and believe in the 2nd amendment are not our people.  They must be wrong and stupid and we must assume at all times that they are wrong and above all REPUBLICAN and therefor evil.
    It's not just guns, it's sexism used against republican women.  It's sexism against democratic women politicians if they get too uppity or ambitious.  Republicans do it to in the other direction.  But the problem for me is that we democrats think only republicans do it.  

    I have to say that yes, it is unfair that GZ was (4.57 / 7) (#3)
    by ruffian on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 08:49:25 PM EST
    charged and this guy was not. Browning ought to be charged too. I guess I just have a fundamental disagreement with the idea of 'stand your ground'.  What was stopping Browning from driving away rather than pulling a gun? Once again, if there is no gun involved, there are no serious injuries. Maybe Browning would not even have been brave enough to pull over behind the car to begin with. What did he expect to happen after he did that?

    Makes no sense to me.

    I am with you (4.40 / 5) (#5)
    by desmoinesdem on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 10:17:28 PM EST
    The details of this case just convince me that this is a bad law I wouldn't want enacted in my state. Take down his license plate and report his erratic driving to the police, fine. But he shouldn't have pulled over and approached the erratic driver.

    serious injuries (none / 0) (#8)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 08:33:00 AM EST

    Once again, if there is no gun involved, there are no serious injuries.

    The fact that no serious injuries occurred before the gun was used does not mean that there would not be serous injuries if the gun was not used.

    An acquaintance of an acquaintance of mine was in a drug store getting a prescription filled when a gang banger came in with a shotgun to rob the place.  The acquaintance drew a pistol and fired eight rounds at the robber, one of which went down the barrel of the shotgun.  The only serious injury was to the robber.  However, it is pure speculation to say that there would have been no serious injury at all if everyone politely complied with the robber.



    Yes of course it is my speculation (5.00 / 5) (#10)
    by ruffian on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 09:21:21 AM EST
    I speculate that if Browning had not had a gun in his car he would not have parked behind an erratically driving stranger at 2 am. I am sick of these people getting their courage from their guns and other people paying with their lives.

    You may be right. (none / 0) (#12)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 09:52:55 AM EST

    OTOH, this may only be a civic minded individual that saw what looked like a traffic fatality on the way and wanted the plate number to report the dangerous operation of the vehicle to police.  

    Either could be right, or something different.  Your speculation does seem to confirm your prejudices however.



    I am all for getting the plate number and (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by ruffian on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 11:44:59 AM EST
    calling the police. You can do that from a safe distance with no confrontation.

    there is a difference (none / 0) (#9)
    by nyjets on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 08:54:34 AM EST
    The robber initiated the situation and the conflict. The robber started the alteration. Your acquaintance initiate the conflict in any way. His action were 100 percent self defense.

    Agreed (none / 0) (#11)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 09:27:23 AM EST

    But the fact is, as in the GZ case, the blows had not yet produced serious injuries.  But that is no guarantee that serious inguries were not in store if the blows continued.



    Killing with your bare hands (none / 0) (#24)
    by Aunt Polgara on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 10:46:33 PM EST
    I have to take exception to your statement:

    Once again, if there is no gun involved, there are no serious injuries.

    From Slate.com

    How easy is it to kill a man in a fistfight?

    It happens more than twice a day, on average. Fists and feet were responsible for 745 murders in 2010, or 5.7 percent of all murders that year, according to FBI statistics. (The data on this have been remarkably stable in recent years. In the five preceding years, the percentage of murders perpetrated by fists or feet fluctuated between 5.6 and 6.1.) It doesn't even take an experienced brawler to punch someone to death: An 11-year-old California girl appears to have killed a classmate with her bare hands in a February fistfight.

    There are no official statistics on this, but most fistfight deaths are the result of massive internal bleeding from repeated blows, often after the victim has been knocked down or unconscious. Still, under certain circumstances it's possible to kill a man with a single punch. In July, for example, a Florida man was arrested for killing someone with a haymaker in a Las Vegas casino.

    I don't disagree that what he did in following the weaving car and stopping behind it was pretty stupid. As far as I can tell, though, it was not illegal to do so.


    So? (none / 0) (#26)
    by Yman on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 07:44:12 AM EST
    Of course it's possible for someone to be killed or seriously injured with bare hands or feet, but the odds are much lower than when someone decides to use a gun.  Are you suggesting deadly force is justified in a fistfight simply because of that possibility?

    You know (4.57 / 7) (#6)
    by nyjets on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 10:51:07 PM EST
    In  both  circumstances the shooter followed/stalked the personn they were trying shooting. If this is the typical application of the law, an argument can be made that this is a bad law. Essentially, a person could follow someone, pick a fight with the person is such a way that the person being followed is to blame, and bam, the person you are following is dead, and you have an ironclade defense.

    Jumping to a conclusion (none / 0) (#22)
    by spectator on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 03:43:19 AM EST
    appears to be the actual issue in both incidents and this one too.

    One point of logic (3.50 / 2) (#4)
    by Dadler on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 08:52:45 PM EST
    When you follow someone driving erratically, it  requires that YOU ALSO DRIVE ERRATICALLY.  Otherwise, you could not follow them.  So safety is hindered by hero types, too.

    The joys of a heavily armed society in the process of committing suicide. Don't get too comfortable, this nation will be a shooting gallery for a long time to come, and it will only get worse as the nation tells its citizens "Sorry, you don't matter as much as money, we have to cull you."

    I am pretty sure (5.00 / 1) (#27)
    by TeresaInPa on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 08:20:51 AM EST
    that I can follow someone who is swerving all over the road and taking wide sloppy turns without doing the same.  Seriously.

    So does SYG mean (in Fla. only) (1.00 / 0) (#18)
    by fredquick21 on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 06:14:06 PM EST
    i can follow that gorgeous well built blond at the bar (who was driving IMO erratically) to her apartment parking lot and tell her all the nasty things i wanna do to her THEN if she rejects me then smacks me i can pull my LEGALY obtain gun and kill her then say i was Standing My Ground cause multiple blows from her may have caused SERIOUS INJURY/GREAT BODILY HARM including death. I will NOT BE CHARGED? (if i'm the only witness)... great so i can go follow that other blond. * JUST TRYING TO MAKE A POINT... THIS IS NOT REAL*

    Hmmm, careful (none / 0) (#20)
    by ruffian on Tue Sep 25, 2012 at 07:10:42 PM EST
    Gorgeous blondes get a media spotlight.

    Yes you can follow her (none / 0) (#21)
    by spectator on Wed Sep 26, 2012 at 03:01:49 AM EST
    You just might be living in a nearby apartment or even a P.I. for her jealous husband.
    But it's better not to say anything, then if she attacks you with something that might crack your skull ... and you can't get away, then you do what you have to.

    no, that would be different (none / 0) (#29)
    by TeresaInPa on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 08:30:42 AM EST
    that would be you being a stalker and a pervert.  She would probably not get close enough to hit you and if you got that close to her she would more likely run or mace you.  Why would you would come up with that particular creepy scenario?

    WOW.. just wow (none / 0) (#1)
    by Cashmere on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 08:22:40 PM EST
    WOW.. just wow.. eom

    One Difference I See (none / 0) (#2)
    by RickyJim on Mon Sep 24, 2012 at 08:26:02 PM EST
    An autopsy showed Baker had cocaine and alcohol in his system. The prosecutor wrote:

        "Brandon Baker's level of intoxication, from both alcohol and cocaine, makes it reasonable to conclude that Seth Browning's description of Brandon Baker's aggression is plausible."

    Well we don't have the complete toxicology report yet on Trayvon, but if there is nothing in it, SP Corey can say that Zimmerman's account of Trayvon's aggression is not plausible.  Whether that will fly without the introduction of character witnesses is to be seen.

    There are some differences; (none / 0) (#31)
    by manberk on Thu Sep 27, 2012 at 10:18:44 AM EST
    that I would assume came into play.

    Sounds like the shooter exhausted all other means before using deadly force. There's no evidence that George gave TM any warning at all.  Its possible it doesnt matter. But at least he tried.

    George is not trained as a security guard. He did not have the knowledge necessary to make the decisions he made.

    Other than hearsay we have no evidence that TM is violent and pot is not known to make people behave erratically as is the case with liquor. The first hand evidence from people who know TM suggest hes not aggressive. So the assumption about Bakers condition influencing his behavior(drunk) could not be made the same way with TM.

    Both are tragic and the people who initiated the contact are responsible for their role in everything they caused regardless.