In what was another test of the state’s controversial Stand Your Ground self-defense law, Miami-Dade authorities announced Wednesday they won’t charge a teen who waited outside an apartment building and fatally shot an unarmed burglar as he tried to escape.
Jordan Beswick, 19, had faced second-degree murder charges for the death of Bryan Antonio DeJesus, 22, in January. But prosecutors concluded they could not prove his guilt under Florida’s self-defense law.
The development came one day after prosecutors, in an unrelated case, announced they would not charge a Miami Shores teen who shot an unarmed thief who stole a WaveRunner from his family’s backyard.
In deciding against criminal charges in each of the high-profile cases, Miami-Dade prosecutors cited Florida’s self-defense law, which critics say encourages an atmosphere of shoot-first vigilante justice.
Before 2005, a Florida citizen had a “duty to retreat” before using lethal force to counter a threat.
The law is under national scrutiny in Sanford, where neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman is on trial, accused of murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, of Miami Gardens. Zimmerman, 29, is claiming self-defense in fatally shooting the unarmed teen during a scuffle inside a gated Sanford community just north of Orlando.
Lawmakers in 2005 also beefed up the law’s existing “Castle Doctrine” to give a resident a “presumption” that any intruder, armed or not, poses a threat of “death or great bodily harm.”
In Beswick’s case, prosecutors concluded that even though the teen left the apartment, it could not be disproved that he feared for his life when he opened fire.
“Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law made it impossible for us to prosecute Jordan Beswick,” said Ed Griffith, a State Attorney’s Office spokesman. “The very nature of the break-in gave his deadly actions legal justification. Like it or not, that’s the ‘Stand Your Ground’ law.”
Beswick’s attorney hailed the decision, saying the teen and his family “are eager to move forward with their lives.”
“There is ‘no win’ in this matter. A life was lost; this is not something we celebrate,” said lawyer Sasha Berdeguer.
“Though the criminal matter has come to a conclusion today ... it does not by any means erase the trauma Mr. Beswick suffered being labeled a killer and a murderer. He is neither. Jordan is a young man who made a difficult, spilt second decision in terrifying circumstances. He protected himself and his home.”
Miami-Dade police in January arrested Beswick, who lives with his mother in a first-floor condominium on the 800 block of Northeast 209th Terrace, near the California Club.
That night, he was home alone watching television about 11 p.m. when he heard a knock at the door. He did not answer, then heard someone trying to enter through the condo’s sliding glass door.
Police said Beswick grabbed a pistol and lay down on the tile floor near the living room.
Minutes later, DeJesus, 22, was inside the condo, according to the police report.
The intruder emerged from inside a rear bedroom. Beswick saw a shadow and fired seven times, missing DeJesus, who ran back into the bedroom.