Vigilante Justice - How Far Can a Robbery Victim Legally Go?

Richard A Whitenight rum.runner at JUNO.COM
Tue Aug 1 05:45:28 MDT 2006


In case of 'vigilante justice,' cafe owner to be tried for running down
robbery suspect with car
By Matt Pordum
Court TV 
TAMPA, Fla. — How far can a robbery victim legally go to stop the person
who robbed him?
A jury may have to answer that question during the manslaughter trial of
a local restaurant owner who was allegedly robbed at gunpoint of $15 and
then chased down and killed the suspect with his car.
Lawrence Storer, 36, was sitting in his Ford Explorer while taking a
break from remodeling the exterior of his restaurant, the Sumos Thai Cafe
in downtown Tampa Bay, on Oct. 29, 2003, when a man pointed a gun at his
face and demanded money.
Shantavious Wilson, 24, allegedly forced Storer out of the car and into
his restaurant, where he stole about $15. When Wilson was distracted,
Storer ran to his car, locked the door and called 911.
Wilson fled, but Storer put his car in drive and chased after him, going
the wrong way down the street for two blocks.
Story continues 



Prosecutors allege Storer intentionally steered into Wilson's path,
hitting him and killing him instantly.
Storer faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.
Much of the prosecution's case is expected to rest on the testimony of an
accident reconstruction expert who has said the physical evidence shows
Storer intentionally ran down Wilson.
The expert says Storer was probably driving 30 to 35 mph when he hit
Wilson, and no skid marks were found at the scene.
Prosecutors did not return calls for comment.
Storer's attorney, John Fitzgibbons, said his client is guilty of nothing
more than exercising his rights as a resident of the state of Florida.
"There is no secret that one of the arguments I will make as part of Mr.
Storer's defense is excusable homicide, which is a widely recognized
defense in Florida," Fitzgibbons said.
In a motion filed last week Fitzgibbons argued that Storer's actions were
justifiable because "a private citizen attempting to make a felony arrest
may use such force as is necessary, including deadly force, to prevent a
felon from escaping."
Judge Barbara Fleischer has not ruled yet on whether this defense can be
used.
Fitzgibbons said Storer, who is married and has a 3-year-old daughter,
will testify in his own defense, but declined to discuss who else he will
call to testify.
He does plan to play Storer's 911 call, and the jury is also expected to
see a grainy video captured from a surveillance camera at the nearby
federal courthouse.
The jury will also hear about Wilson's prior conviction of robbery
outside a coin laundry in 1998. A judge previously presiding over the
case ruled that the jury could not hear about the conviction, but an
appeals court overturned that ruling.
Opening statements could begin Monday afternoon. The trial is being shown
live on Court TV Extra.
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