A man who shot and killed another man during a parking dispute in downtown St. Petersburg was acquitted of a murder charge Wednesday after his attorney argued he was acting in self defense.
Donovan Elmalik Gamel Shabazz, 49, initially faced a charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm in connection with the Sept. 28, 2021, death of Shane Tyler Boyd, 26, near the intersection of Central Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street.
In January, however, prosecutors filed a third-degree murder charge against Shabazz after attorneys representing Boyd’s family told the State Attorney’s Office about changes to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law that would allow the state to pursue a murder charge, Chief Assistant State Attorney Kendall Davidson told the Tampa Bay Times.
According to police, Boyd and his girlfriend, Kaitlyn Benson, got into a dispute with Shabazz and another man — identified in records as Paul O’Brien Robinson — over a parking incident. Boyd accused Robinson of almost backing into his car. Robinson and Benson got out of their vehicles and started arguing. Boyd and Shabazz, who was a passenger in Robinson’s car, also argued outside their vehicles. Then everyone except Boyd got back into their vehicles.
Davidson said Shabazz then began opening and closing his car door, banging it into the side of Boyd’s vehicle. Boyd grabbed Shabazz’s door handle to stop him. It was at that point that Shabazz fired three shots, two of which struck Boyd, Davidson said.
However, Ron Kurpiers, who represented Shabazz, said in a phone interview that there was no physical evidence that his client ever banged a door into Boyd’s truck, including marks on the vehicle. Boyd opened Shabazz’s car door, grabbed Shabazz by the neck and reached for a weapon. Shabazz then shot Boyd in self defense, Kurpiers said.
On Wednesday, after about two hours of deliberation, a jury delivered a not guilty verdict.
If Shabazz had been convicted, he would have faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.
Davidson said he was disappointed with the verdict.
“I think that this is a horrible example of a needless killing,” Davidson said.
Kurpiers said Shabazz was relieved by the verdict.
“Obviously, we are very sympathetic that this young man lost his life,” Kurpiers said. “We have no idea why he acted the way he did that night and attacked my client. But my client had a right to defend himself and he did. And the jury agreed.”
Shabazz remains in jail, however, because he is facing federal charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm and marijuana possession with intent to sell. It was unclear Thursday if those charges are connected to the shooting.