Monday, January 22, 2018
News Roundup

Echoes of Zimmerman might he heard in Florida trial

JACKSONVILLE — A man with a gun. A black teen, shot dead.

Was it murder or self-defense?

Jury selection is scheduled to begin today in Florida in the trial of 47-year-old Michael Dunn, a software developer charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder in the November 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Jordan Davis outside a Jacksonville convenience store.

Authorities say an argument over loud music led to the shooting. Davis was parked in a vehicle with three friends outside the store. Dunn and his fiancée had just left a wedding reception and were heading back home when they stopped at the store and pulled up next to the sport utility vehicle that Davis was sitting in.

An argument began after Dunn told them to turn down the music, police said. One of Davis' friends turned the music down, but Davis then told him to turn it back up.

According to authorities, Dunn became enraged and he and Davis began arguing. One person walking out of the convenience store said he heard Dunn say, "You are not going to talk to me like that."

Dunn, who had a concealed weapons permit, pulled a 9 mm handgun from the glove compartment, according to an affidavit, and fired multiple shots into the SUV, striking Davis in the back and groin.

Dunn later told police he felt threatened. His attorney has said Dunn saw a gun and shot in self-defense, perhaps laying the ground work for a case under Florida's "stand your ground" law.

If the case sounds familiar, that's because it has echoes of a trial that received wide attention and happened only two hours away.

George Zimmerman fatally shot Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen, in Sanford in 2012. Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, was acquitted of second-degree murder in July 2013. He was prosecuted by Jacksonville's State Attorney Angela Corey, who will also be prosecuting the Dunn case.

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, said he believed Martin was acting suspicious. Martin and Zimmerman got into a fight and Zimmerman said he thought Martin was reaching for his gun. Authorities didn't arrest Zimmerman for more than a month after the shooting.

Like Zimmerman, Dunn said he felt his life was in danger when he fired the fatal shots. But unlike the Zimmerman-Martin case, several people say they witnessed Dunn shooting Davis, and that there was no physical scuffle beforehand.

And while Zimmerman stayed on the scene after the shooting and was not immediately arrested, Dunn was tracked down by police and arrested a day later.

According to Jacksonville police, Dunn fled with his fiancée and drove south more than two hours to his home and never called them. They arrested him the next day after tracking him down through his license plate number.

Dunn told officers that Davis threatened him and he thought he saw someone point a shotgun at him from inside the SUV or maybe it was a stick to make him think it was a gun. Under Florida's self-defense law, Dunn could fire if he believed his life was in danger.

But police recovered no weapon from the crime scene, and witnesses said they never saw a weapon.

In a letter to WJXX, a television station in Jacksonville, Dunn told the TV station that the case "has never been about loud music."

"After multiple threats of death by Jordan Davis and his brandishing of a weapon, I was convinced that my life was in danger. … I had no choice but to defend myself, I am NOT a murderer. I am a survivor," Dunn wrote.

Dunn's attorney, Cory Strolla of West Palm Beach, said in an email to the Associated Press on Friday that his client "feels that he was the victim of a political system pressured to appease a certain body of constituents."

"It has been a very long and tenuous year for my client, spent in isolation in the Duval County jail. Mr. Dunn has been continually threatened, harassed and tormented by inmates for over a year now, and has received almost no mental health counseling by staff," Strolla wrote.

Davis' mother, Lucia McBath, said that before her son's death, she never thought much about guns or Florida's "stand your ground" self-defense law that Dunn has hinted he will use at trial.

"I couldn't understand what or who he was defending himself against," she said. "In this regard, there was no credible threat to him whatsoever."

The churchgoing Davis was a good student, had never been arrested or in trouble and was thinking about going into the military, his parents said.

He loved being with his parents — roller skating with his mom in Atlanta and swimming with his father on Jacksonville Beach. His mother, who lives in Atlanta, homeschooled him as a boy.

According to his father, Ron Davis, the two were talking about buying golf clubs so they could play together.

"I've been thinking about all of the things I've stopped doing since Jordan died," said Davis in a recent interview with the Associated Press. "The golf bag's empty in the house. I just can't seem to get motivated to get the clubs. It's just taken so much away from me. A lot of me died with Jordan."

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