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Jogger won't be charged in fatal Town 'N Country shooting

TOWN 'N COUNTRY — Thomas Baker went jogging after midnight one day in November, wearing a pistol loaded with hollow-point bullets. When a teen attacked him, he fired eight times.

Carlos Mustelier, 18, died. But prosecutors said Tuesday that Baker won't be charged. They were convinced he acted in self-defense.

Florida's "stand-your-ground" law was a factor in their decision, office spokesman Mark Cox said. Passed in 2005, the law gives people the right to use deadly force anywhere, as long as they "reasonably believe" the force is necessary to stop the other person from hurting them.

Baker told detectives Mustelier punched him in the face.

He thought Mustelier was armed, he reported in a videotaped interview, conducted about five hours after the shooting.

So Baker reached for his own gun.

"When you go running at night in the neighborhood, do you normally arm yourself with a firearm?" a detective asked.

"I always have it on me, unless I'm going to the courthouse," Baker replied.

Detectives corroborated his story through other interviews, made public Tuesday.

His brother and a friend told detectives that Baker usually jogged after midnight. Baker said he had been running for about a week and a half, trying to get in shape to join the military.

He's unemployed but told detectives he makes money fixing friends' cars. He had just been paid for car work and a part, he said, and that's why he had a lot of cash in his pocket, $950.

It was legal for him to carry a gun. Baker had a concealed weapon permit, good through May, records show.

The night of the shooting, Mustelier had walked to the Beverage King on Waters Avenue with a 16-year-old friend. On their way, they passed Baker. Mustelier told the friend he planned to rob Baker, according to the Sheriff's Office report.

After going to the store, they passed Baker again, and Mustelier said, "I'm gonna knock him out," according to the report.

That's when Mustelier lunged at Baker, swinging his fists, the report states.

The 16-year-old told detectives that Baker responded, "You wanna play games? You wanna play games?"

Baker said he was punched in the face. His lip was cut and his vision blurred, he told detectives.

That's when he grabbed his gun, he said in the recorded interview.

The 16-year-old ran. When he turned, he saw Mustelier standing in the middle of the street with a red laser dot on him.

Eight shots rang out. Four bullets hit Mustelier: one in the chest, two in the back and one in the buttocks.

He didn't have a pulse when authorities arrived.

The 16-year-old ran to a nearby house. Baker stayed. He willingly went with detectives to be interviewed, the report states, and he didn't bring a lawyer.

The Times is not naming the 16-year-old friend because he's a minor and was not charged in the incident. His mother said he has faced retaliation because he ran and because he spoke to detectives. He has not been attending high school and receives therapy for post-traumatic stress disorder.

On Tuesday, Baker declined to comment to a reporter, as did his brother.

Mustelier's father, Nicolas Sarlabous, did not want to say much about the decision.

"It's not what we wanted, but we don't want to talk about it anymore," Sarlabous said in Spanish. "It's the police's problem now."

But the Sheriff's Office is done with the case, and so is the State Attorney's Office. The file, once used by investigators, is now closed.

At the top of each page, one phrase appears: justifiable homicide.

Times researcher John Martin and staff writer Stephanie Bolling contributed to this report. Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or jvandervelde@sptimes.com.

Jogger won't be charged in fatal Town 'N Country shooting 01/11/11 [Last modified: Friday, January 14, 2011 5:52pm]
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