By Richard Ray:
In 2012 Trayvon Martin, a 17 year old from Miami, visiting Sanford, FL with his father was killed by George Zimmerman. The self professed neighborhood watchman spotted Trayvon walking in the community and called police to report him as a suspicious person. He was advised by 911 operators to wait for the police to arrive but ignored their directive. He left his car, followed Trayvon on foot and an altercation ensued. George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon in that altercation. He was not immediately arrested based on Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” laws. After community and media pressure Zimmerman was eventually arrested and charged, but a Florida jury acquitted him of second degree murder charges.
I bring up Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman in part because of a similar situation that recently took place in Florida in which “neighborhood watchmen” took extreme actions into their own hands. This time it appears tragedy was narrowly averted.
Robert Augustin, an Uber driver, had just made a food delivery when he was stopped at gunpoint by self professed neighborhood watchmen, Dustyn Jenkins and Micah Mercer. Augustin, a Haiti native, claimed the men fired a shot near his head and threatened to kill him. He feared they were trying to rob him since they provided no identification. The men admitted to firing a “warning shot” at Augustin and claimed he became “aggressive” when they approached him.
Jenkins and Mercer were arrested, because none of their actions were even remotely legal. Thankfully Augustin was not hurt or killed because then once again you would have only the word of one side, who clearly have an understanding of the absurdely low threshold for Florida’s Stand Your Ground Laws to possibly be acquitted because they knew all the necessary buzz words to justify otherwise indefensible actions.
Under Florida’s stand your ground laws a person only need to feel threatened by another to excuse the use of deadly force. In this situation as with Trayvon Martin’s death it appears inherently flawed that you could initiate a confrontation and somehow invoke stand your ground when the other person somehow defends themselves, but in Florida the non-sensible often leads to not guilty jury verdicts.
I get “see something, say something”… I get the idea of neighbors looking out for each other. Profiling is so un-politically correct, but we all do it on some level. Profiling itself is not inherently bad until people take it too far. That overreaching leads to stereotyping that often leads to racism. Unless you live in rural or remote areas, you probably have an effective 911 system. A neighborhood watch is not a police force. It is not even a private security company. Despite gun license carrying states such as Florida, individuals that comprise a neighborhood watch are not authorized to fight crime or detain people.
It seems apparent that the neighborhood watch has become a legal way for some to re-enact their Charles Bronson vigilante justice not so subtly steered by their overt racist profiling….These People Of Color look suspicious, its already been proven that you can shoot and kill as long as you highlight their aggressiveness and your fear as justification for your actions.
Clearly, Florida’s Stand Your Ground laws need to be tweaked, because until that is done you are going to have racists with guns that stand behind such laws with easy justification for their actions hidden behind an act of civil responsibility. Micah Mercer and Dustyn Jenkins were arrested in part because there was a living witness to their criminality. Let us see if their arrests will actually lead to convictions. In Florida nothing is ever certain.
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