Jordan Beswick ran out the front door, circled around to the back of his townhouse, waited, then ambushed a burglar trying to escape through a bedroom window. Citing Florida’s nebulous self-defense law, his lawyer claimed it was a righteous kill. Beswick stood his ground.
It happened last Monday evening. The Herald’s David Ovalle reported that Beswick, gun at the ready, surprised a burglar breaking into the northeast Miami-Dade townhouse where he lived with his mother. Beswick fired seven shots, chasing the unarmed intruder into a back bedroom.
It was then that Beswick stretched the definition of “standing” his ground. The 19-year-old ran around to the backyard, waited there in the dark for about three minutes, then let loose another volley — police say at least eight shots — when the burglar appeared in the rear window.
A petty criminal named Bryan Antonio DeJesus, 22, fell back into the bedroom, fatally shot.
Police charged Beswick with second degree murder. (Audrey Lewis, Beswick’s mother, told Ovalle on Saturday that their home had been broken into in August. She insisted that her son was protecting their property).
At his preliminary hearing on Thursday, Beswick’s defense lawyer argued that his client “had the absolute right to defend himself inside his own home.”
Except Beswick wasn’t actually “inside his own home” when the fatal shooting occurred. He didn’t pause to call the police. He fired the second round of gunshots at a burglar who, by then, seemed only intent on getting the hell out of there. The shooting hardly resembled what most states would classify as justifiable homicide.
But in Florida, Beswick just might have a plausible defense.
His lawyer, Gawane Grant, cited our infamous Stand Your Ground law, the 2005 revamp of the state’s self-defense law so loosely written that its interpretation seems to vary from county to county, courtroom to courtroom.
Under Stand Your Ground, the shooter is “presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm” when: “The person against whom the defensive force was used was in the process of unlawfully and forcefully entering, or had unlawfully and forcibly entered, a dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle.”
Doesn’t matter if the intruder’s unarmed, unthreatening and hell bent on retreat, he’s still “presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence.”
In this case, a judge must now decide whether this presumption still applied after Beswick left his home and took up a stealthy position outside the rear window, ready to shoot. Of course, DeJesus was still inside the premises. Maybe that small technicality provides enough cover to exempt young Beswick from prosecution. Certainly, killers with even more tenuous self-defense claims have found sanctuary in the elastic presumptions of Stand Your Ground.
In 2009, a gangbanger firing from the passenger seat of a car in a high-speed rolling shootout along Old Cutler Road managed to kill the driver in the other car. Yet, the shooter dodged a murder charge, thanks to Stand Your Ground. In 2011, 26-year-old Greyston Garcia chased a car burglar down a Liberty City block and stabbed him to death. A judge, invoking Stand Your Ground, shrugged off the killing as justifiable homicide. Garcia walked.