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Town 'N Country confrontation with jogger ends with fatal shooting

EDITOR'S NOTE: Correction notice appended below.

TAMPA — Thomas Baker was on his usual late-night jog about 1 a.m. Wednesday when two teenagers in dark hooded sweat shirts approached him. A brief conversation quickly turned into a confrontation, authorities said.

One teen punched Baker, who thought he was about to become the victim of an armed robbery, Hillsborough County sheriff's deputies said.

So Baker, 28, pulled out a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun and fatally shot 18-year-old Carlos Mustelier multiple times in the chest. He called 911 and remained on the scene until deputies arrived.

Deputies found Mustelier's body at 1:24 a.m. in a quiet, working-class corner of suburban Town 'N Country.

Mustelier's unidentified 16-year-old companion was unharmed. He ran and hid his sweat shirt in a nearby back yard, he told deputies. He returned later and was questioned by deputies.

Authorities did not find a weapon on either teen.

Neither Baker nor Mustelier has a criminal record. The 16-year-old's record is also clean, said sheriff's spokesman Larry McKinnon.

Baker, who has a concealed weapons permit, stood outside his home at 9015 Hickory Circle on Wednesday morning smoking a cigarette, five houses from the shooting scene at Pinehurst and Hickory Circle. "I don't want to talk," he told a reporter. "It was a terrible thing."

Baker and the teenagers live in the neighborhood but don't know each other, sheriff's detectives said.

No charges were filed, and the shooting will likely be another case involving Florida's "stand your ground" law.

Sheriff's detectives were conferring with prosecutors, who will determine if charges will be filed. Mark Cox, a spokesman for Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober, declined to comment.

Florida law formerly gave people the right to protect themselves from deadly force inside their homes, but in 2005 the Legislature extended the law to just about anywhere you "reasonably believe" using a weapon will stop someone from harming you.

The law has been used in at least 93 cases involving 65 deaths, a recent St. Petersburg Times review found.

On Wednesday, Baker's neighbor awoke to the sound of gunshots. William McVey, 63, said he heard five shots. "Somebody getting killed like that is awful," he said. "What an awful way to start the Thanksgiving weekend."

He said the neighborhood is pretty quiet with a lot of children.

Two miles from where Mustelier died, family and friends packed the living room of Mustelier's parents' home on Camino Villa Boulevard a few hours after the shooting.

His mother, Elena Lopez, 34, sat on a couch surrounded by loved ones. One hand covered her mouth as her arms hugged her body.

"He was a kid, like anyone else," she said in Spanish. "He was a little spoiled with me, but he was normal."

On the wall, Mustelier posed and smiled in a picture next to his brothers, Jordan Sarlabous, 21, and Michael, 11. Outside the home, Mustelier's father, Nicholas Sarlabous, 42, sat on the porch with bloodshot eyes.

Mustelier recently graduated from high school and planned to start studying physical therapy at Erwin Technical Center in Tampa.

"He was a jokester," said friend Jennifer Martinez, 17. "He was a good kid."

She said about 10 of Mustelier's friends showed up at the scene, including her brother John Martinez. He's been Carlos' best friend and basketball buddy for six years.

When John got the call, he rushed to the scene, dropped to his knees and tried to revive Carlos before paramedics took him away.

"My brother just fell on his knees and I knew it was him," Martinez said.

Friends and relatives didn't believe he was doing anything wrong.

"What they're putting in the news about a robbery, I don't believe it," said his uncle, Gustavo Gonzalez, 41. "He's always been provided for."

Said Martinez, "He never tried to start problems. … He never started a fight with anybody."

Times staff writer Danny Valentine contributed to this report. Ileana Morales can be reached at (813) 226-3386 or imorales@sptimes.com.

CORRECTION: Carlos Mustelier's name was misspelled in earlier versions of this article appearing in print and online.

Town 'N Country confrontation with jogger ends with fatal shooting 11/24/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 3:55pm]
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