Welcome to Aftermath, a portion of our First Line email newsletter where Attorney Anthony L. DeWitt walks you through a real-life self-defense incident and shares his key takeaways.
A man and his grandson went to a Marine dealer in Florida to take photos for a lawsuit, which happened to be owned by the grandson’s father. The owner took offense to his former father-in-law’s visit and, with the assistance of an employee, attacked them. During the scuffle, the grandfather retrieved his pistol and shot the employee in the ankle. The brawl ended when the owner began attacking the grandson (his son) with a pipe. The man shot and killed him. No charges were filed.
What steps could have been taken to prevent the incident coming to blows?
Hard to say for certain not knowing what the lawsuit was over and what exactly happened just prior to the owner’s and employee’s attack.
If I was having a legal dispute with a business and needed photos of the property during business hours and thought that could possibly lead to a confrontation, I would likely ask a friend or pay a private investigator to get them for me.
I got lost in the family trees!
First thing that comes to mind. Being a Law Suit involving family members, I would have probably not gone over there. It looks like an “In Your Face” move.
A better question is. Why does he have to do anything? He was engaged in a lawful activity, didn’t do anything that was illegal.
I’m tired of people thinking that law abiding citizen’s have to monitor/change their law abiding behaviors because some freaking nut job might break the law.
This sounds like a family fight with roots in distant past that can’t be sorted out or fixed by anyone.
If the grandfather had not shot the employee or his son, it would be “resolved” by the 20-something patrolman responding to the disturbance. Likely, the “resolution” would be to:
(1) physically separate the parties (“You sit over there and you sit over there.”) and be prepared to fight with either or both of the parties;
(2) ask each side to tell their stories, listen patiently (knowing that neither side is interested in listening to the other, they just want the other side to go to jail);
(3) ask each side whether they want to make and sign a formal complaint for something like harassment or some other misdemeanor-level assault (99% of the time they don’t 'cause it involves writing a narrative of their complaint against the other and most people can’t write a complete sentence much less a paragraph); and,
(4) tell the grandfather and grandson to leave the area.
If the knowledge of a indifference is between the former father-in-law was a previous knowledge, then the former father-in-law should not have been there to prevent any escalation of the situation. This also is one of those situations of hindsight and may not have been able to foresee any escalation in this situation too.
The best probability to this situation is if there was going to be a lawsuit then a third party should have gone to take the pictures. This would have added an extra witness for the lawsuit too.
Scout sniper from an elevated position? Surveillance and reconnaissance!
The location sounds dangerous, Florida Marina, Panthers, Pythons and old men with guns?
But seriously, a phone call prior to arrival = common courtesy!
That’s the ideal but not the reality. There are lots of places in nearby cities and even a few rural areas that I will never step foot in even though it is perfectly legal for me to be there. Especially if I knew there was going to be someone there who is likely going to take offense to my presence. The risk just isn’t worth the reward.
We also don’t know the history on the lawsuit and full details of the incident. The visiting/photographing relatives might be in the wrong and trying to make up evidence for a frivolous law suit. Maybe they were even trying to instigate they attack to further their lawsuit or set up their response? The business owner may have told them to never return to the store. Owners have the right to deny service to anyone I believe even relatives. Without a lot more info I can’t say for sure who was acting legally.
Ignoring all of the relationship stuff! Clear case of self defense.
That’s my vote. But knowing my dumb arse, I would have gone to take the pictures myself as well. I would stay close to the car and leave when I saw someone coming.
Dude, that ship sailed when “lawful activity” became the exception in the regime.
Based on the lack of charges in the shooting one can infer that the shooting was lawful or the shooter was a Biden!
It’s hard to say if the grandfather was justified in killing his ex-son-in-law. It depends on what his relationship with his ex-son-in-law was like. First of all, if it was acrimonious, the grandfather should have used better judgment in coming in the property to take pictures in the first place. He should have had a lawyer or private investigator take pictures for him. If the grandfather saw the first sign of trouble, why didn’t he just leave the premises? Without knowing all the facts, it appears that the grandfather had time to get his gun (we don’t know if he had the gun with him or if he had time to get it) and escalated the situation beyond where it needed to go. This, in my opinion sets a dangerous precedent where people can escalate a situation and use a gun as a final solution to solve their problems. Then again, if i saw my grandson getting beat with a pipe, I might have shot my ex-son-in-law dead, too! This grandfather is lucky that no charges were filed against him. With that said, i am sure that there is more to this story than what was presented.
Hello and welcome @Jeffrey328
In the Marine Corps we had a saying, "Don’t work outside your M.O.S. The intent was, don’t try to do stuff you have no training or experience in. Don’t act like a private detective if you have no training. I can speak from experience. My business was flooded by the negligence of the land owner of the property next to where I was leasing. At the end of it all, the court said so, so it was not just my opinion. After first telling me that they would pick up the bill for the damages his insurance carrier decided they would not. So off to court we go. I decided I would interview the guy from RotoRooter who cleared the plugged drain that caused the flooding. Well, I totally failed. Yes, I got the statement but was unable to pin the guy down at all. When I left I wondered if the property owner had already gotten to him. I had another problem years earlier and my brother who was acting on my behalf hired an experienced private investigator. He did a masterful job. Luckily for me, the law was so clearly on my side in the flood situation that the judge had no other choice than to rule in my favor despite the rooter guy coming on for the property owner. I don’t know where the property owner was getting his legal advice, but it was truly bad. He showed up in court with an attorney — in small claims court were attorneys are only allowed if they are a party to the lawsuit. At my complaint the judge had the bailiff escort the attorney from the courtroom. That didn’t help the property owner win any points with the judge. On appeal the instant the judgment is rendered the damages are due and if not paid immediately start to accrue interest. Neither the land owner nor the insurance company came forward with a check for some period of time. I had put a lien on his property and kept it there even when they paid the judgment because they owned interest on the non-payment of the judgment. He sold the property and the realtor found the lien. I told him what the problem was and the he would have to prepare the lien release because I was pissed at the land owner for his and his insurance company’s diddling around not paying the judgment. He was down at my place of business with the lien release in under 30 minutes which I promptly signed.
So introspect in this case, Grandpa should have spent the bucks for a private investigator or had his attorney arrange to get the photos. The attorney could have gone out there with a police escort if he felt there was a threat of violence. Son-in-law might not have been happy to have the attorney show up with a cop or two but he probably would have stewed without violence. Even if there were violence, Grandpa would not have ended up killing his grandson’s father which may have caused all sorts of interfamilial problems later on. And, yes, I agree with the other posters it would have been nice to have a little more background, but that, I think, still would not have changed my opinion that the best course of action would have been to have professionals handle it. Besides, the attorney knows better than the client what he has to prove in court and what pictures he needs to buttress his proof. That’s what the client hired the attorney for— his professional knowledge.