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Shot, killed while fleeing: Is this a case of stand your ground?

By Kathryn Varn
Lasupta Singletary, 18. [Clearwater Police Department]

They met after dusk in the parking lot of a bank for what seemed like a routine transaction.

Louise Ornduff and her son, Kalaeb, were there to negotiate the sale of a 2016 Nissan Rogue with Lasupta Singletary, 18, and Jernalen Dreshaw Coleman, 17, at the Bank of America at Belcher and Belleair roads in Clearwater, according to police.

But instead of a handover of cash for car, the meeting turned deadly.

The men, armed with guns, demanded the keys to the 2016 Hyundai Veloster that Kalaeb Ornduff, 18, had driven to the bank, police said. As they drove away from the scene, Louise Ornduff fired a shot, hitting Singletary.

Doctors at Mease Countryside Hospital pronounced him dead. Although police said Ornduff fired the shot, Coleman, of Dade City, faces second-degree felony murder and armed robbery charges. Prosecutors can pursue a felony murder charge against a co-conspirator in Florida when someone dies during the commission of a crime.

What’s less clear is what will happen to Louise Ornduff, 36. Police are reviewing details of the case with the Pasco-Pinellas State Attorney’s Office to determine whether to bring charges against her. Many details that could determine whether a claim of self-defense is legally sound have yet to be released by investigators, citing the open investigation.

"The timeline is going to be critical," Deputy Chief Eric Gandy said during a news conference. "It’s important to determine whether the threat existed when the shot was fired."

With the limited information released by police, experts have varying opinions about whether Florida’s stand-your-ground law would be applicable.

For some, it doesn’t look promising.

"She’s got big problems," said Denis deVlaming, a longtime defense lawyer and former prosecutor.

Use of the stand your ground defense has three criteria, deVlaming said: the person is not engaged in illegal activity, the person has a right to be there and if the person used deadly force to prevent great bodily harm or death or commission of a forcible felony.

Had she shot just before or during the course of the robbery, she would have been justified, deVlaming said. But she loses that ability when the perpetrators are fleeing.

Key details of the incident will likely come into play, such as whether the car was going toward the Ornduffs, where the bullet entered the car and how far away the car was from them, said Charles Rose, a law professor and director of the Center of Excellence in Advocacy at Stetson University College of Law.

Police declined to release a more detailed timeline of the event, as well as the number and type of guns used in the incident. Gandy said there were "some complications and questions over the transaction that occurred .?.?. and the circumstances of how these two groups came together" but did not elaborate further. Both cars are owned by the Ornduff family, police said.

Records show Louise Ornduff, of Clearwater, has no criminal history in Florida — another potential factor in deciding whether to bring forth charges, deVlaming said.

Coleman was sentenced to one year probation in February for carrying a concealed firearm, according to state records. Singletary, of Zephyrhills, was arrested in April on charges of armed burglary, larceny and grand theft auto and for similar charges a month later. The status of those cases is unclear.

It doesn’t appear either teen legally owned the guns in Monday’s incident, Gandy said. He declined to say whether Louise Ornduff did. Louise Ornduff and Singletary’s family members declined to comment Tuesday.

With the limited information available, Rose, like deVlaming, said he doesn’t see a self-defense claim hitting the mark.

"I don’t see the immediate threat," he said. "Stand your ground doesn’t let you shoot people because you’re mad at them or they took your toy."

But Bill Loughery, a former chief assistant prosecutor for Pinellas and Pasco counties, saw it differently.

He said the fact that investigators charged Coleman with second-degree murder indicates they believe he was killed during the commission of a crime, which Loughery said can include a portion of time after the crime happens. Plus, he said, bringing forth charges would complicate Louise Ornduff’s likelihood to testify as a witness in the incident.

"I think it would be unlikely that they would make charges against her," he said. "By virtue of the fact that they’re suggesting the bad guy was killed during the commission of an armed robbery, there’s really no legal charges against her that would be legitimate."

Contributing: Zachary T. Sampson, Langston Taylor, John Martin