Jack Davis, the teen who fatally shot an unarmed WaveRunner thief in the waters next to his Miami Shores home, won’t face criminal charges under Florida’s self-defense law.
The lethal shotgun blast, prosecutors said Tuesday, was the tragic culmination of a series of facts that when woven together, instilled a sickening fear in the 14-year-old student.
Months earlier, the Davis family has been terrorized by gun-toting thugs in the home’s driveway. The “strange man” who suddenly appeared on the family’s waterfront property that May 2011 afternoon wielded a dark object that appeared to be a weapon.
And most alarming to Yasmin Davis and her son, who was 14 at the time of the shooting, the man repeatedly refused to acknowledge their panicked warnings as he reached for the object as he straddled the WaveRunner.
The “weapon” was actually a black box key-type device used by Reynaldo Muñoz to start the engine of the stolen vessel, prosecutors said. And Muñoz didn’t respond to commands because, unbeknownst to the family, he was a deaf mute.
“It can be found that the ‘appearance’ of danger was so real that a reasonably prudent and cautious person would have believed the danger could only have been avoided through the use of deadly force,” prosecutor Kathleen Hoague wrote in a final memo released Tuesday.
The State Attorney’s Office, however, did not outright deem the shooting “justified” under Florida’s self-defense law. Instead, prosecutors simply said they could not “prove beyond a reasonable” doubt that Jack Davis — or his mother, who instructed him to shoot — was not justified in using deadly force.
They had considered possible charges of manslaughter or murder.
The case was seen as a key test of Florida’s controversial 2005 Stand Your Ground law, which eliminated a citizen’s duty to retreat before using lethal force to meet a deadly threat. The law also gave judges greater leeway to grant “immunity” from criminal prosecution and civil lawsuits to someone found to have used self-defense.
The Stand Your Ground law is under national scrutiny in Sanford, where a neighborhood watchman is on trial for second-degree murder in the shooting death of 17-year-old unarmed teen Trayvon Martin.
Because Jack and his mother, Yasmin Davis, will not be charged, they will never appear before a criminal court judge. That sets up the possibility that a civil judge could one day hold a “Stand Your Ground” immunity hearing — the Muñoz family is currently suing the Davises for wrongful death.
“The Muñoz family is devastated by the state’s decision and they will continue to seek justice for their son,” said family lawyer Juan Lucas Alvarez. “We have filed a wrongful death suit against the Davis family and there is nothing in the state’s report that says we can’t proceed in civil court.”
The Davis’ attorney, Jeffrey Weiner, called the shooting a “horrible situation” for both sides but hailed the prosecutors’ decision.
“It is a complete vindication,” Weiner said. “It is very clear that the shooting was justified under these tragic circumstances.”