After a Florida sheriff said that the state’s “stand your ground” law prohibited him from making an arrest in a politically charged and racially tinged shooting death, fellow Republicans who wrote the law, criminal-court attorneys and the National Rifle Association are accusing him of misapplying Florida’s self-defense statutes, reports Politico. In explaining why he didn’t arrest the shooter, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said his hands were tied because the stand-your-ground law “created a standard, that is a largely subjective standard” for the use of deadly force by a shooter. Gualtieri suggested his office could be civilly liable for arresting the shooter. He stressed how Florida last year changed the 2005 law concerning immunity from prosecution.
On each count — immunity, civil liability and subjectivity — experts say Gualtieri is wrong. “Nothing in either the 2005 law or the 2017 law prohibits a sheriff from making an arrest in a case where a person claims self-defense if there is probable cause that the use of force was unlawful,” said the NRA’s Marion Hammer, who backed “stand your ground” in the Florida legislature. “Nothing in the law says a person can sue the Sheriff for making an arrest when there is probable cause,” she added. Democrats want to end “stand your ground” and say it has racial overtones. Gualtieri is co-hosting a Tuesday fundraiser for Gov. Rick Scott’s U.S. Senate campaign in Clearwater, where Michael Drejka shot Markeis McGlockton dead on July 19. In not arresting Drejka, who is white, in the death of a black man, Gualtieri opened himself up to questions of racial bias, said Benjamin Crump, attorney for the mother of McGlockton’s children. “This was a cold-blooded murder,” Crump said. “This is not self-defense. And communities of color, the black community, are very emotional about this issue with these stand-your-ground cases.”