Vigilante Law Allows Man to Shoot Friend Ten Times in Back and Not Face Trial

gunviolenceIn what seems to be a clear case of a law that has long left the tracks, a man who shot his old friend in the back ten times in a parking lot in front of several witnesses is not being charged. The state is Florida, so two guesses what the relevant law is. If you guessed Stand Your Ground, congratulations! Unfortunately, the prize is ultimate doom. Which is what happens when vigilante law is official justice policy, as we see here and in several other cases.

In presenting why they would not file charges against 20 year old Colt Thriemer for shooting Thomas James Brown in a Walmart parking lot, the State’s Attorney argued:

Under the current state of the law and the facts of this case, Thriemer was legally allowed to use deadly force based on a reasonable belief that his life was in danger and that he was about to become the victim of an armed robbery.  [Italics mine]

Remember the fascinating record that the Florida States’ Attorney has? After much press and external pressure, they finally decided to prosecute George Zimmerman for his fatal encounter with unarmed Trayvon Martin after preying on him (and being advised by police dispatcher to stay away and let the police handle it). Many argue that the SA botched the prosecution in the trial itself. The Zimmerman case was one of clear vigilantism, and much like early 20th century cases, black people who “step out of line”, so to speak, were the targets.

Another clear case of horrible Stand Your Ground vigilantism is the case of Jordan Davis, a black teen, murdered by Michael Dunn, a middle aged white American after some heated words in (here we go again), a parking lot. As I recounted in February:

The case of Michael Dunn and Jordan Davis repeats the case that George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin made clear a year ago: Guns have more rights in the United States judicial system than black youth do. Consider the fact that Zimmerman was set to go free no matter what the evidence showed according to the ways the Stand Your Ground laws were written in Florida and enacted in that court. Consider that members of the jury admitted as much. Consider the fact that Dunn went back to his car, retrieved a gun from his glove compartment, shot into a car nine times while his victims never got out of the car, kept shooting at it while they were driving away with Davis having been fatally shot, and then had the gall and practicality to claim “self-defense.” Despite the clarity that this was a case of pre-meditated murder, his jury could not figure this out for several straight days and still could not agree with that.

The only reason he was indicted, we recall, is that he continued shooting after the car was speeding away. Dunn could have merely murdered Davis and gotten away with it scot-free under the presumption of the vigilante “justice” known as Stand Your Ground. Because Dunn told Davis and his friends to turn their hip hop music down and Davis wouldn’t. That, somehow and in some way, made Davis a threat to Dunn’s life and Dunn could begin shooting.

Remember Renisha McBride? Young black woman who went looking for help after crashing her car into a tree? She was obviously a bit dizzy, but of no threat whatsoever. And yet she was murdered for knocking on doors looking for help in the middle of the night. Through a screen door. With a shotgun. From only two feet away.

It also says something that police detectives did not follow protocol and collect key evidence until ten days after the incident when the county’s prosecutor began checking into the story (again, after external pressure). This case is still ongoing.

Folks, if someone is on the other side of a screen door, it’s usually pretty obvious that they are no immediate threat to your life. But under the Castle Doctrine (immediate cousin to Stand Your Ground), vigilante laws allow for rash judgments. Rash judgments that the Constitution tries to mitigate for.

In the case of Thriemer and Brown, Brown may have been a threat to Thriemer. And maybe, just maybe Thriemer’s life was in extreme danger. But a threat is not an action, as police contend. Though in this case, the violence that the victim would have likely inflicted seems real, it sets a precedent for determining Pre-Crimes, where the alleged is not only guilty before proven innocent, but is deemed guilty before they actually commit a crime, before they are even in a position to commit a crime. Under such conditions where a person is guilty under “reasonable belief”,  then, nearly anyone at varying times is a threat. And anyone at some point could then become a victim of these vigilante laws. What, after all, is a “reasonable belief” and who gets to determine if it is reasonable or not? George Zimmerman isn’t the only person with a vigilante trigger-happy finger. Those most in danger of these vigilante laws are supposedly threatening groups of people, such as those with mental health issues or Black, Latino and Arab-Americans, who are often stereotyped as savage and violent.

But as for the elephant in the room, shooting someone ten times in the back seems a bit like, shall we say it, overkill?


When he’s not riding both his city’s public transit system and evil mayor, Jasdye teaches at a community college and writes about the intersection of equality and faith - with an occasional focus on Chicago - at the Left Cheek blog and on the Left Cheek: the Blog Facebook page. Check out more from Jasdye in his archives as well!


Facebook comments

  • Corey

    There are times I wish we had these laws in MA

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  • Jim Bean

    12 jurors – dumb. 1 Liberal blogger – smart. (Zimmerman)

    • I’m not sure where you get the idea that I blame the jurors. Their job was to interpret the law in the case of the facts. The law was written in such a way to favor vigilantes. That’s what this whole piece was about.

      • Sandy Greer

        Well, but didn’t you post, in the other piece, Zimmerman was
        acquitted by a racist law and racist justice – and by “racist white supremacists like you”?

        ^^^That last said to Charles Vincent. Who, turns out, is Native American; Cherokee and Choctaw.

        But sounds like you think the jury “racist white supremacists”.

        Hard to have a convo about race when folks are accused of being “racist white supremacists” because they don’t share one’s own opinion. Sometimes I wonder if that isn’t the whole point.

        In any case, it stifles debate. Makes it unlikely accord may be reached, and solutions found. It sets us back tremendously.

        JMHO of course, and FWIW

    • kissyface

      obviously you didn’t follow the trial or you would know that the Zimmerman jury had 6 members

  • Laura Hurt

    It’s so scary where these kinds of interpretations of the law are taking us. Especially with racism still pretty firmly in place it’s not hard to imagine that basically everyone who feels threatened by a black person will get away with openly killing them and then calling self defense…. it’s horrifying!

  • DavidD

    What were the circumstances that lead to the shooting you first mentioned?
    I like to get truth from actual facts not your subjective “gut feelings ” about this incident.
    If someone is going for a weapon the smartest thing to do is to get the hell out if you have time but not knowing the actual circumstances it’s hard to make much sense out of what occured.

  • Charles Vincent

    The Use-of-Force Continuum

    Most law enforcement agencies have policies that
    guide their use of force. These policies describe a escalating series
    actions an officer may take to resolve a
    situation. This continuum generally has many levels, and officers are
    to respond with a level of force appropriate to
    the situation at hand, acknowledging that the officer may move from one
    of the continuum to another in a matter of

    An example of a use-of-force continuum follows:

    Officer Presence — No force is used. Considered the best way to resolve a situation.

    The mere presence of a law enforcement officer works to deter crime or diffuse a situation.

    Officers’ attitudes are professional and nonthreatening.

    Verbalization — Force is not-physical.

    Officers issue calm, nonthreatening commands, such as “Let me see your identification and registration.”

    Officers may increase their volume and shorten commands in an attempt to gain compliance. Short commands might include “Stop,”
    or “Don’t move.”

    Empty-Hand Control — Officers use bodily force to gain control of a situation.

    Soft technique. Officers use grabs, holds and joint locks to restrain an individual.

    Hard technique. Officers use punches and kicks to restrain an individual.

    Less-Lethal Methods — Officers use less-lethal technologies to gain control of a situation.
    (See Deciding When and How to Use Less-Lethal Devices. )

    Blunt impact. Officers may use a baton or projectile to immobilize a combative person.

    Chemical. Officers may use chemical sprays or projectiles embedded with chemicals to restrain an individual (e.g., pepper spray).

    Conducted Energy Devices (CEDs).
    Officers may use CEDs to immobilize an individual. CEDs discharge a
    high-voltage, low-amperage jolt of electricity at a distance.

    Lethal Force — Officers use lethal weapons to gain control of a situation. Should only be used if a suspect poses a serious
    threat to the officer or another individual.

    Officers use deadly weapons such as firearms to stop an individual’s actions.

  • Charles Vincent

    And the Applicable law;
    776.013 Home protection; use or threatened use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm.—(1) A
    person is presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of
    death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another when using
    or threatening to use defensive force that is intended or likely to
    cause death or great bodily harm to another if:
    (a) The person against whom the defensive force was used or threatened was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle, or if
    that person had removed or was attempting to remove another against that person’s will from the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle; and
    (b) The person who uses or threatens to use defensive force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry or unlawful and forcible act was occurring or had occurred.
    (2) The presumption set forth in subsection (1) does not apply if:
    (a) The person against whom the defensive force is used or threatened has the right to be in or is a lawful resident of the dwelling, residence, or
    vehicle, such as an owner, lessee, or titleholder, and there is not an
    injunction for protection from domestic violence or a written pretrial
    supervision order of no contact against that person; or
    (b) The person or persons sought to be removed is a child or grandchild, or is otherwise in the lawful custody or under the lawful guardianship of, the
    person against whom the defensive force is used or threatened; or
    (c) The person who uses or threatens to use defensive force is engaged in a criminal activity or is using the dwelling, residence, or occupied
    vehicle to further a criminal activity; or
    (d) The person against whom the defensive force is used or threatened is a law enforcement officer, as defined in s. 943.10(14), who enters or attempts to enter a dwelling, residence, or vehicle in the performance of his or her official duties and the officer identified himself or herself in accordance with any applicable law or the person using or threatening to use force knew or reasonably should have known that the person entering or attempting to enter was a law enforcement officer.
    (3) A person who is attacked in his or her dwelling, residence, or vehicle
    has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and
    use or threaten to use force, including deadly force, if he or she uses
    or threatens to use force in accordance with s. 776.012(1) or (2) or s. 776.031(1) or (2).
    (4) A person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter a
    person’s dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle is presumed to be
    doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or
    (5) As used in this section, the term:
    (a) “Dwelling” means a building or conveyance of any kind, including any attached porch, whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent, mobile or immobile, which has a roof over it, including a tent, and is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night.
    (b) “Residence” means a dwelling in which a person resides either temporarily or permanently or is visiting as an invited guest.
    (c) “Vehicle” means a conveyance of any kind, whether or not motorized, which is designed to transport people or property.
    History.—s. 1, ch. 2005-27; s. 4, ch. 2014-195.

  • Charles Vincent

    Jasdye is an Idiot who has no concept of how law works and would make us all victims in our own homes if he could. Dont listen to people like Jasdye they will get you killed.

  • Cemetery Girl

    I don’t understand how shooting someone in the back is self defense. I don’t understand how someone can go away to get a weapon and its self defense. This is the kind of thing that happens now. I’m so glad that guy in Cleveland wasn’t able to pull off his self defense case. He was found guilty of murder. He got into a fight, went to his car to get his gun, and then shot the other man three times (once behind his ear), but it was “self defense”.