Sunday, December 17, 2017
Public safety

'Stand your ground' spares Spring Hill man charges in shooting death

BROOKSVILLE — A 28-year-old Spring Hill man who fatally shot another man during a struggle in May will not face criminal charges.

Evidence indicates Christopher Asciolla was standing his ground when he shot 34-year-old Michael Challis in the Asciolla family's front yard on May 23, the State Attorney's Office has determined.

Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino reviewed a Hernando Sheriff's Office investigation and outlined the basis for his recommendation in a Sept. 30 memo. The memo was released to the Times on Thursday.

It gives this account, based on statements from Christopher Asciolla; his father, Robert, and younger brother Jayson:

Christopher Asciolla let the family's dog into the front yard of their home on Pinehurst Drive about 12:30 a.m. As he stood on the stoop, he saw a man, later identified as Challis, walking down the street with a large dog. Asciolla yelled for his own dog to come inside.

Challis apparently thought Asciolla was yelling at him, crossed the street and shouted, "My dog will eat yours." Asciolla went into the house, but Challis started banging on the door.

Asciolla armed himself with .38-caliber revolver, yelled through the door that he had a gun and warned Challis to leave. When the banging continued, Asciolla went back outside. His father, Robert Asciolla, followed with a Glock 9mm handgun.

Challis started a physical altercation with Robert. Christopher heard a gunshot and, thinking his father had been shot, pointed his gun at Challis and fired. Challis had taken the Glock from the elder Asciolla and fired multiple times as he ran away.

Jayson Asciolla watched the incident unfold from his bedroom window and called 911. Deputies found Challis at a nearby intersection, the Glock near his body. He was pronounced dead a local hospital.

An autopsy showed a bullet traveled through Challis' arm and into his torso. He had a blood-alcohol content of 0.252. Florida law presumes impairment at a level of 0.08. His blood also contained traces of a chemical used to cut cocaine, the memo states.

Florida's controversial "stand your ground" law gave Asciolla the right to go back outside and confront Asciolla instead of remaining in the secure confines of the house and calling 911, Magrino said.

"Prior to stand your ground, given these facts, it would be a much more difficult case in which to make a decision," he said.

Magrino said prior to 2005, when the law was passed, he might have been able to file a charge of manslaughter by culpable negligence.

Reached Thursday, Christopher Asciolla declined to comment. Challis' family members could not be reached.

Magrino said the lead detective on the case agreed with his determination.

He also discussed the decision with Challis' mother and sister, who, he wrote, "understand the basis of my decision (but) are not pleased with the decision."

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