TAMPA — A tow truck company owner who fatally shot a man driving a seized car was handed a second legal defeat Wednesday.
An appeals court ruled that the judge in Donald M. Montanez's case correctly denied a motion to dismiss a second-degree murder charge. Lawyers had argued that Montanez qualified for immunity and dismissal of a murder charge because of Florida's "stand your ground" law, which allows people to meet force with force when they feel threatened.
Attorneys for Montanez, 47, argued that he thought an employee was in physical danger when 30-year-old Glen Rich drove his car in the employee's direction.
The 2006 shooting followed a dispute about the vehicle being towed from the area of a Hillsborough Avenue after-hours club, according to the brief.
Prosecutors presented evidence that suggested Montanez fired his .40-caliber pistol into the passenger window of Rich's passing vehicle, meaning he was in no danger of being hit by the car when he used deadly force.
Circuit Judge Robert Foster Jr. sided with the prosecution, ruling that there is a zone of uncertainty where it is unclear in which direction a car will travel, but Montanez was outside that zone.
Montanez's lawyers appealed but got the same result.
"It is clear from the record that at the time Montanez fired the shot, the vehicle was passing him. Thus we are not persuaded," the appeals court opinion stated.
The court also thought Montanez's testimony that he did not know where his employee was at the time of the shooting was problematic if he was shooting in the employee's defense.
Montanez can still appeal the verdict if he is convicted at trial.