TAMPA — Jimmy Lee Cruz "brought a gun to a fistfight" when he fatally shot a man who punched his brother in a bar parking lot and is not entitled to immunity under Florida's "stand your ground" law, a judge ruled Wednesday.
The ruling means Cruz, 34, will stand trial for second-degree murder in the 2011 death of J.J. Revear, 28, a troubled, mentally ill career criminal whose arrests began at age 12 when he drove the getaway car in an armed robbery.
Revear had just been released from a state mental hospital where he'd been treated for bipolar disorder.
He was unarmed the night he got into a fight with Cruz's brother, Michael, in the parking lot of the Interstate Lounge on N Nebraska Avenue.
The fight was the shortest of several scraps in the parking lot that night — one an all-out slugfest.
But when Revear punched Michael Cruz, knocking him down, Jimmy Lee Cruz came around his car with a gun and fired one shot, witnesses said.
His attorney, Brian Gonzalez, argued that the other fights had created a deadly atmosphere and that Cruz feared his fallen brother was in mortal danger.
Gonzalez said Cruz was protected from prosecution by the "stand your ground" law that has been cited in numerous controversial shooting cases since being passed in 2005.
Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ronald Ficarrotta didn't find that credible. His ruling Wednesday stated: "The court finds that the defendant's use of deadly force was excessive when compared to the type of force to which he was responding, which was, according to all available testimony, only the use of hands."
No trial date has been set.