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.
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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