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Florida 'stand your ground' law results in no charges in fatal Hillsborough road rage stabbing

TAMPA — Last month, Alcisviades Polanco stabbed Wathson Adelson in the head with an ice pick after a confrontation in traffic escalated.

After three weeks in the hospital, Adelson died of the wounds.

On Monday, prosecutors announced they would not pursue criminal charges against Polanco, saying his actions were found to be covered under Florida's "stand your ground" law.

"After listening to the case and the evidence presented, it was determined that we couldn't refute the gentleman's claim of self-defense," said Mark Cox, spokesman for the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office.

Investigators from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office conducted a thorough examination of the case before making the decision, Cox said.

The road rage episode between the two Tampa men started Nov. 21, deputies say, when Polanco, 62, cut off Adelson, 20, while driving on Manhattan Avenue just outside Tampa.

Adelson then sped around Polanco and stopped his car. Adelson got out and walked toward the older man, the Sheriff's Office said. Polanco also got out of his car, according to his attorney, Joe Caimano.

The argument became physical between Adelson — a 6-foot-3, 260-pound former Middleton High School offensive tackle — and Polanco, who is 6 feet tall and 150 pounds.

Adelson began to overpower Polanco during the altercation, Caimano said in an interview.

At some point, deputies say, Polanco grabbed an ice pick he had in his car and stabbed Adelson in the head and arm. Adelson was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, where he died Dec. 11.

Under Florida's 6-year-old "stand your ground" law, anyone not committing a crime can use deadly force if he feels threatened with death or great bodily harm. Precedent shows he can use it even if the threatening person is unarmed, as authorities say Adelson was.

Monday's decision angered Magalie Adelson, 43, the mother of Wathson Adelson, who said authorities were sending the wrong message.

"He left behind a 2-month-old baby," she said. "We're going to have more criminals, more killers. He'll say, 'My daddy died and nobody did anything.' "

Wathson Adelson, who immigrated to the United States from Haiti in the mid 1990s, worked at the University of Tampa as a cashier in the dining department, his mother said. He attended Hillsborough Community College, where he was studying criminal justice.

Magalie Adelson accused authorities of being prejudiced against her son, saying they incorrectly judged his actions to be threatening.

"We're not going to let it slide," she said. "I'm waiting for them to give me something. They have to do something for me."

Polanco's attorney said his client did nothing wrong and simply sought to protect himself.

"When my client was in the car, he had nowhere to go," Caimano said, explaining that Polanco believed Adelson was going to try to pull him out of the car and beat him. "The guy was approaching the vehicle, and he didn't want to be stuck inside the car."

Polanco, who is disabled from nerve damage, felt that his life was in danger, his attorney said.

"Absolutely, he was being overpowered and that's why what happened, happened," Caimano said. "It was a last-resort thing. He couldn't get away. When he was attacked, that was his response."

He had the ice pick in his car, the Sheriff's Office said, because he had used it in a previous job in which he worked with plastics.

"He has cooperated with the authorities since Day 1," Caimano said.

"My client's family is equally suffering. … It's been a month of hell — you have no idea."

Polanco does not have a criminal history in the state, records show. Driving records show he has been cited for speeding, for not yielding the right of way, for not obeying a red light and, once, in 2010, for driving without a valid license.

Adelson had been arrested three times on charges of marijuana possession, state records show. He had no citations on his driving record.

Dan Sullivan can be reached at dsullivan@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3321.

Florida 'stand your ground' law results in no charges in fatal Hillsborough road rage stabbing 12/19/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 2:28pm]
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