A Florida sheriff is citing “stand your ground” in his decision not to charge a disabled Army veteran with a crime after he shot two homeless men while helping a pregnant woman being assaulted.
“Due to his disability, he would not be able to fend off an attack from both males, especially considering that one was somewhat larger than he was,” Martin County Sheriff William Snyder said of 29-year-old Joshua Anderson.
According to WPTV, Anderson was fishing under a causeway near Port St. Lucie Tuesday night when he says he saw two homeless men fighting. One of the men, later identified as Brett Jowers, shoved the pregnant girlfriend of the other man, Zachary Sly. She fell to the ground.
Witnesses said that Anderson went to the woman’s defense and to break up the fight. The two men then turned on Anderson and headed towards him. One of the men shoved Anderson, and witnesses said that he told the men he had a gun. But neither backed down. That’s when Anderson shot them both in the stomach.
“It was a very big altercation. I’m calling for myself because this was not good,” Anderson said on the 911 call he placed after the shooting. “The other two men were well bigger than me, and they were hitting a pregnant woman. I tried to stop them and they turned to try to come on me.”
After an investigation, the Martin County Sheriff’s office determined that Anderson acted in self-defense and that the state’s “stand your ground” law applied.
Anderson “saw a woman being attacked at night, and he went to her aid,” Snyder said at a news conference. “In my opinion, I think he did the right thing.”
“You don’t have an obligation to allow yourself to be attacked,” Snyder added.
Sheriff William Snyder announces no charges filed in double shooting on causeway citing Stand Your Ground. pic.twitter.com/YNIsDmv4gk
— MartinCountySheriff (@MartinFLSheriff) March 18, 2015
“Stand your ground” has become controversial in recent years, especially in Florida. The law states that a person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force when they fear that they or another person are in danger of death or great bodily harm. That person does not have a “duty to retreat” and “may stand his or her ground.”
“Stand your ground” entered the national spotlight following the Feb. 2012, shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, even though that particular self-defense law did not apply in the case. Evidence showed that Zimmerman was on his back on the ground while Martin was punching him when he shot the teen. Zimmerman’s legal defense team did not make the “stand your ground” argument because it would not have been applicable since Zimmerman could not have retreated anyway.
But many of those who were outraged by the shooting claimed that local police initially considered Zimmerman’s case to be “stand your ground.” Activists rallied — unsuccessfully — to have the law removed from the books.
Zimmerman was acquitted of the shooting in July 2013.
The two homeless men shot near Port St. Lucie are in critical condition.