When are you justified in using deadly force in Florida?

Investigations

8 On Your Side has examined the justifiable use of deadly force in Florida after a fatal shooting in Haines City on Sunday.

Just hours after the gunfire, police announced they are not charging the man who shot and killed Furious Shell, 26.

The incident happened at about 3:45 p.m. following an altercation outside of a business in the 1600 block of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way, according to the Haines City Police Department. 

Police say the shooting appears to have been justified. 

“What the investigation has revealed at this point is it’s definitely self-defense,” said Chief James Elensky.

According to Chief Elensky, Shell was armed and making threats. He allegedly hit the man with his gun. 

The man, identified as Devonte Duga, wrestled the weapon away and reportedly fired four shots.

“He’s in fear for his life at that point,” said Chief James Elensky.

Criminal defense attorney Richard Escobar has worked on high-profile cases like the Curtis Reeves theater shooting. 

8 On Your Side spoke with Escobar about the Haines City incident.

“Obviously this fact pattern has a lot of positives for the use of self-defense,” he said. 

According to F.S. § 776.012 (2), “a person is justified in using … deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using … such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.  A person who uses … deadly force … does not have a duty to retreat … if the person using … the deadly force is not engaged in a criminal activity and is in a place where he or she has a right to be.”

“A lot of these cases deal with facts and split-second decisions that individuals have to make in the heat of the moment,” said Escobar.

Previous shootings, caught on camera, have gone viral, putting Florida’s self-defense laws under the microscope.

In July of 2018, Michael Drejka stated he feared for his life after he was pushed to the ground. Police say he fired his gun killing a local father. Drejka’s criminal trial is set for August. 

Escobar says these cases are fact-specific.

“People don’t realize that the standard is whether or not it was reasonable for that individual to believe, to believe, that either serious bodily injury or death was imminent,” he said.

While there are not hard and fast rules, Escobar says certain factors would not support a self-defense claim.

“Clearly if someone is backing away, not being the aggressor any more in a confrontation, those are things that favor not shooting,” he said.

Another important part of the defense is if you are justified in using deadly force, there is no duty to retreat as long as you are in a place you are legally allowed to be and not committing a crime.

Meantime, we’ve learned that Shell and Duga were not strangers. Police say they knew each other prior to this incident.  

Detectives are looking to speak with more witnesses as the investigation does continue.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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