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Witnesses say shooter aimed at several people before firing shot that killed their brother

TAMPA — Two men testified Wednesday that a tow truck driver who killed their brother pointed his gun's laser sight at several people who gathered during an escalating confrontation.

Ernest Rich said he thought the red beam was a Taser until Donald Montanez pointed it at his chest and then raised it to Rich's eyes.

"I'm like, 'Chill, chill, chill,' " Rich said he told Montanez after realizing it was a gun aimed at his face.

Angry patrons from the Sugar Shack, a Hillsborough Avenue after-hours club, had found a staging lot where Montanez's employees towed their cars before transporting them to an impound lot. They questioned why their vehicles had been towed, Rich said, when they had parked away from a tow zone on a grassy area where the club's security directed them.

Montanez also pointed the gun at Glen Rich's back as he ran up a hill toward his Chrysler Sebring and jumped in, Ernest Rich said.

When Glen Rich accelerated toward Montanez as he tried to leave the lot, Montanez jumped out of the car's path and simultaneously fired his .40-caliber pistol into the vehicle, according to Montanez's testimony earlier this week.

The bullet struck Glen Rich in the chest, and he died at a hospital.

Montanez is charged with second-degree murder in the Jan. 8, 2006, shooting.

His attorneys are asking Hills­borough Circuit Judge Robert Foster to dismiss the charges, saying Montanez deserves immunity from prosecution under Florida's "stand your ground law," which allows people to meet force with force when they feel threatened.

Montanez testified Tuesday that if he hadn't fired, he would have been killed.

Prosecutors disagree, noting that the bullet entered the vehicle through the front passenger window, which suggests Montanez was out of danger when he fired.

Foster must decide whether to toss out the case or send it to a jury.

Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3433.

Witnesses say shooter aimed at several people before firing shot that killed their brother 05/13/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 13, 2009 10:09pm]
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