A 45-year-old white software developer in Florida is accused of opening fire on four African American teenagers in an SUV at a Jacksonville gas station because they were playing their rap music too loud, killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Michael Dunn is charged with first-degree murder in a case reminiscent of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin murder trial in 2013.
A Florida grand jury indicted Michael Dunn Dec. 13, 2013, on five charges including first-degree murder, attempted murder, and a firearms charge. The first-degree murder charge death is for the shooting death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis. Three counts of attempted murder relate to the three teens in the vehicle with Davis. Dunn was initially charged with second-degree murder because in Florida a defendant cannot be charged with first-degree murder without the approval of a grand jury. The State Attorney’s Office stated it would not seek the death penalty. If convicted of first-degree murder Dunn would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
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The only thing louder than the music coming from the Dodge Durango parked at a Jacksonville, Florida gas station the night of Nov. 26, 2013, were the 8-9 gun shots fired into the vehicle by 45-year-old Michael Dunn. Two of the bullets struck and killed an African-American teenager, Jordan Davis, who was sitting in the back seat.
The racial and socioeconomic differences between the shooter and victim are as striking as the alleged motive — teenagers playing their hip-hop music too loud!
Dunn, a Caucasian software developer living in an oceanfront townhome in Satellite Beach, about 170 miles (270 km) south of Jacksonville, was in town for his son’s wedding with his girlfriend, Rhonda Rouer, when they stopped at the Gate Food Post to buy a bottle of wine before returning to their hotel.
Davis and three friends, all African American, pulled up next to Dunn at the gas station in their red SUV with music blasting after returning from Black Friday shopping at the mall, according to Jacksonville homicide Lt. Rob Schoonover.
After Dunn’s girlfriend went inside Dunn confronted the teens and told them to turn their music down. The teens refused and an argument ensued, with both sides exchanging words. Dunn ultimately took a licensed pistol from his glove compartment and fired between 8 and 9 shots at 7:40 p.m. into the teens’ car, killing Davis. Dunn then waited for his girlfriend to return and sped away from the scene before police arrived and without notifying authorities.
Defense attorney Robin Lemonidis said that Dunn asked the teens to turn down the volume of the music but the teens instead turned up the volume, threatened Dunn, and brandished a shotgun. She said that her client acted “responsibly and in self-defense” and as any other firearms owner would have acted under the same circumstances. However, police did not find any weapons on the teens or in the SUV.
“He didn’t think he had harmed anybody and he just thought he had scared them off and he wanted to report it, but he didn’t want to go in a sense, throw himself to the wolves in a strange city without representation,” Lemonidis said when asked about Dunn’s flight from the crime scene Dunn was arrested at his home in Satellite Beach and is charged with the murder of Jordan Davis and the attempted murder of the other three teenagers in the car.
The State Attorney’s Office stated it would not seek the death penalty. If convicted of first-degree murder Dunn would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Dunn is expected to invoke Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law which drew national attention and criticism during the George Zimmerman murder trial following the similar shooting death of unarmed African American teenager Trayvon Martin.
In 2005, under then-governor Jeb Bush, Florida passed a law that allows the use of deadly force in the face of an attack without the requirement that you have to back down first. In other states, a defendant can only claim self-defense if he shows that he tried to flee the aggressive situation first.
Florida’s “stand your ground” law grants immunity to people who act to protect themselves if they have a reasonable fear they will be killed or seriously injured. Once a defendant claims he acted in self-defense, the burden to disprove the claim is on the prosecution.
Ultimately, Zimmerman’s defense attorney Mark O’Mara decided not to use a “Stand Your Ground” defense and received an acquittal using a standard self-defense justification.
UPDATE 2/14/2014: After more than 30 hours of jury deliberations over four days, a mistrial was declared on the most serious charge of 1st-degree murder. The 12 jurors found him guilty of three counts of attempted second-degree murder and a count of firing into an occupied car.
Each count of attempted murder constitutes a gun crime under Florida’s tough 10-20-life law and will carry a minimum sentence of 20-years — effectively a life sentence for Dunn. That law applies a sentence of 10 years for employing a gun in the commission of a crime, 20 years for firing the gun in the commission of a crime, and 25 to life for injuring or killing someone with a gun.
Michael David Dunn – 45-year-old software developer charged with first-degree-murder for shooting and killing 17-year-old high school Junior Jordan Davis after an argument over loud rap music at a convenience store gas station on Nov. 23, 2013, before fleeing the scene. Dunn was reportedly in Jacksonville to attend a wedding. His girlfriend Rhonda Rouer was reportedly in the car with Dunn as the couple stopped to buy a bottle of wine before heading back to their hotel. According to Dunn’s attorneys he fired out of fear for his life when someone in the SUV containing Adams brandished a shotgun and threatened him. Authorities said no weapon was found in the SUV or in the teens’ possession. Dunn lives in an oceanfront townhome in Satellite Beach, about 170 miles (270 km) south of Jacksonville, where he was taken into custody the day after the shooting. According to his LinkedIn web page he had been vice president of software development since 2004 at Dunn and Dunn Data Systems in Fort Pierce.
Jordan Russell Davis – 17-year old high school student shot and killed by Michael Dunn in the backseat of an SUV outside of a Gate convenience store and gas station. Born in Marietta, Ga., Davis was a Junior at Wolfson High School in Jacksonville.
Ron Davis – Jordan Davis’ father. To honor his son’s memory he has reportedly pledged to campaign against Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” which allows people in the State to defend themselves if they “reasonably believe” someone will hurt them without having a duty to first retreat as is required in the majority of States.
Rhonda Rouer – Michael Dunn’s girlfriend. She was inside the convenience store when Dunn and Davis exchanged words. Rouer and Dunn were in Jacksonville the night of the shooting to attend a wedding and reportedly stopped at the convenience store to purchase a bottle of wine before heading back to their hotel.
Lt. Rob Schoonover – Jacksonville homicide detective investigating the shooting death of Jordan Adams.
Cory Strolla – Michael Dunn’s criminal defense attorney.
Angela B. Corey – State Attorney in Florida’s Fourth Judicial Circuit Court. She is personally serving as prosecutor in the case against Michael Dunn. In March, 2012, Florida governor Rick Scott appointed Angela Corey as Special Prosecutor to investigate the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.
Rebecca Dunn – Michael Dunn’s daughter. Rebecca defended her father, saying he did not intend to kill anyone and was responding to a threat the night he shot and killed Jordan Davis. “He got threatened and had to do what he had to do, and it’s sad, so sad,” she said in an interview with ABC 25 in Jacksonville. “A terrible tragedy on both sides. It really is. I don’t know. What are you going to do in that situation? You don’t know what you are going to do. He just reacted.”
Police Interview Part 1
Police Interview Part 2
Florida State Attorney Angela Corey takes center stage once again in another shooting case where a man claims he shot and killed an unarmed teen in self-defense.
Unlike George Zimmerman’s trial, Corey is personally taking the lead in the first degree murder trial of Michael Dunn who shot eight times into a car of four teens, killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis.
It was the day after Thanksgiving in 2012. Dunn, then 45, and his girlfriend stopped at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida after leaving his son’s wedding. While his girlfriend was inside the convenience store, Dunn sat in his car parked next to the four teens who were in a red Dodge Durango. Dunn says he asked the teens to turn down their loud music. An argument ensued and Dunn claims he saw a gun and heard someone say, “Kill him”or “Kill that bitch.” Dunn says he grabbed his 9 mm handgun from his glove compartment and fired at the SUV. As the teens started to pull away, he got out of his car and fired more rounds. At least eight shots in all were fired by Dunn. Jordan Davis was struck several times; the other three teens were uninjured.
Dunn is claiming he fired in self-defense. No gun, however, was found in the teens’ vehicle. But witnesses say that the teens left the gas station and drove to an adjacent parking lot. Two of the young men jumped out then got back in the SUV. The defense is expected to argue that the young men hid a gun, perhaps in one of a number of dumpsters nearby. They returned to the gas station in fewer than two minutes, and police soon responded to the scene.
Rather than call the police, Dunn and his girlfriend left the gas station and drove to St. Augustine, 40 miles south of Jacksonville, where they checked into a bed and breakfast, and ordered pizza. The police tracked down Dunn through his license plate that a witness at the scene had recorded. Dunn was arrested the following day. He faces one count of first degree murder and three counts of attempted murder.
Dunn did not invoke the Stand Your Ground law and seek an immunity hearing before trial. Rather, he is relying on the law of justification for the use of deadly force. The standard jury instruction on justification includes “stand your ground” in its verbiage:
If [[Michael Dunn]] was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believed that it was necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
The whole case will turn on “reasonableness.” Was Dunn’s reaction to his perceived threat of deadly force reasonable? To win, Dunn must raise a reasonable doubt about whether he was justified in using deadly force. If the jury finds beyond a reasonable doubt that he was not justified, then expect the twelve fact-finders to return a guilty verdict.