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Killing of Santeria follower by guard not self-defense, judge rules

A Miami man who shot and killed his unarmed religious disciple after a fistfight does not qualify for immunity under Florida’s self-defense law, a judge ruled Monday.

Yankier Crespo, 30, is accused of second-degree murder for fatally shooting Ondiel Hernandez in August 2010 in Flagami.

Crespo and Hernandez had gotten into a fight inside Crespo’s black Toyota on Southwest First Street near 57th Avenue. The car slowed to a crawl and Crespo jumped out. Hernandez also emerged from the car and Crespo shot him seven times.

Crespo, a security guard, claimed he shot Hernandez in self-defense, and sought immunity under Florida’s 2005 Stand Your Ground law.

The controversial law eliminated a citizen’s duty to retreat when confronting an attacker with deadly force. Critics say the law fosters a Wild West, shoot-first mentality that allows killers to escape justice.

The law also gave judges greater leeway — before a jury trial — to throw out cases if they deem a defendant acted in self-defense.

Crespo, a follower of the Afro-Cuban Santeria religion, served as Hernandez’s “Padrino,” or Godfather.

During Friday’s immunity hearing, Crespo testified that he fired his weapon, as he was on the ground and Hernandez charged at him.

But on Monday, an associate medical examiner testified that most of the bullets came from above. Prosecutor Dawn Kulik suggested that Crespo actually fired one bullet, hitting Hernandez in the side of the back as he ran away. Crespo then fired a flurry of bullets as he stood over the dying man on the road, she said.

“This, I assert to you, is not Stand Your Ground. This was an execution,” Kulik told Judge Beth Bloom.

Bloom agreed, saying that the unarmed Hernandez did not pose a threat that merited deadly gunfire. Her ruling means that Crespo will ultimately get a chance to take his self-defense claim to a Miami-Dade jury.

Bloom has made headlines before for her Stand Your Ground rulings.

Last month, Bloom granted immunity to a Little Havana man who stabbed his brother to death during a violent brawl.

More controversially in March, Bloom cleared Greyston Garcia, who chased down a thief who had broken into his truck and stolen his radio in Little Havana in January 2011. With one fatal knife thrust to the chest, Garcia felled the car thief.

Bloom ruled that Garcia acted in self-defense because the thief swung a bag filled with heavy car radios, and a medical examiner testified that “a 4-6 pound bag of metal being swung at one’s head would lead to serious bodily injury or death,’’ her order said.

The ruling came as Florida’s self-defense law gained national notoriety after the killing of Trayvon Martin, a Miami Gardens teen killed in Sanford by a self-styled neighborhood watchman.