WESLEY CHAPEL — In August, a man in Stagecoach Village woke to the sounds of someone trying to get in his house. He confronted the intruder, who was intoxicated and confused, and the intruder left. But then the stranger returned, and the homeowner felt the need to defend himself and his property — with a gun.
Sheriff's deputies investigated and arrested the homeowner, Gregory Allan Stewart, on a charge of aggravated battery. A Sheriff's Office spokesman said Stewart was not justified in using lethal force by shooting William Vincent Kuch in the chest when he showed up on Stewart's lawn, apparently lost.
Prosecutors have now dropped the charge against Stewart, 32, citing Florida's "stand your ground" law, which allows people to use deadly force when they feel threatened.
Kuch's family is unhappy.
"They seem to have believed the shooter without any facts. Until those facts are proven, we think every case should go to trial," said William Kuch, the father of the man who was shot.
Manny Garcia, an assistant state attorney in Dade City, said the office reviewed the case and determined that the "stand your ground" law applied, in that Stewart had no obligation to retreat when Kuch, 23, wouldn't back away.
"We felt that (Stewart) was legally justified in what he did," Garcia said.
When the incident happened Aug. 1, Stewart told Pasco sheriff's deputies that his front doorknob rattled around 5 a.m. He asked whomever it was to leave, but a few minutes later, the person outside shook the knob again.
Stewart told authorities he then grabbed his Smith & Wesson semiautomatic handgun and went outside.
The young man in his front yard appeared intoxicated, Stewart told deputies. Garcia said Kuch's blood alcohol level was measured later at higher than 0.30, which is more than three times the threshold for driving under the influence.
Stewart could see he was unarmed. Kuch didn't make any threatening comments or gestures and asked repeatedly for a light for his cigarette, a sheriff's report said.
But Stewart told deputies he wouldn't leave.
"Don't make me shoot you," Stewart warned, according to the report.
Kuch took three steps toward Stewart and on the third step, Stewart fired, hitting Kuch in the chest.
Stewart had no other criminal history in Florida. Kuch has a history of trouble with the law, including most recently two charges of driving under the influence in 2007.
Kuch's father said his son spent a month in the hospital, with damage to his lung and heart. He's okay now, the father said, but the family feels that it has been denied justice.
"They just have blindly interpreted this law without concern to what actually happened," the elder Kuch said.
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.