Good Job, Florida, Michael Dunn Is (not quite) Done!
The Michael Dunn Trial,
A Lesson in Personal Responsibility
by Rob Roman
Research by Amanda Chen
Update: Michael Dunn is facing 60 to 90 years in prison on the minor charges and the jury hung on the 1st degree murder charge. Whew! Florida’s extreme sentences and mandatory minimums are way too harsh!!
Although I understand the sentiments of gun owners in America, there needs to be some limits and some common sense. We need to finally put our collective foot down on these terrible tragedies. I have mostly kept quiet about Michael Dunn, who fired 9 rounds into a car full of teens, shooting a high school student to death over an argument about loud music, it’s time to say something about it.
The basic story is that Michael Dunn, 46 and his fiancée, were in Jacksonville, Florida to attend his son’s wedding. Dunn is a life-long gun enthusiast and an avid gun owner who enjoys going to shooting ranges. He’s a software developer and a responsible man who even has a pilot’s license. He’s a big bear of a guy though he lost a lot of weight prior to his trial. After leaving his son’s wedding where it seems he may have got his drink on, he goes to a gas station / mini-mart and he ends up side by side with 4 teens in a red Dodge Durango SUV who had been spending the day after Thanksgiving planning tovisit a few local malls.
As Dunn’s girlfriend goes into the store to buy wine and potato chips to enjoy at their hotel room, the Durango, equipped with special speakers is blasting Rap music super loud. The driver was in the store, and the music is so loud that doors and glass are vibrating. Dunn asks them, understandably in a loud voice, if they could turn the music down and the front seat passenger turns the music off. Dunn, who claims he has a sensitive left ear, says thank you and then the back seat passenger, named Jordan Davis starts getting perturbed.
Jordan didn’t like the idea that his friends turned the music down just because Dunn told them to, so he has his friend in the front seat turn the music on again, but it’s not as loud. At this point, according to Dunn, Jordan starts threatening to go out, confront and possibly kill the 46 year-old man. Epithets laced with “Whitey”, “Cracker” “Bitch” and even “Nigga” are directed at Michael Dunn. Jordan is saying “I’ll F’ing kill you”, and other undisputed threats.
Dunn is not sure if this is just lyrics to the song and asks them “Are you talking to me?”. As he says this, the driver of the Durango is returning to the SUV. There is a claim by Dunn that Jordan said “This is going down now!”. Dunn learns that Jordan Davis IS talking about him, so he reaches in his glove compartment and pulls out a semi-automatic 9 mm pistol with a 15 round clip.
This is where Michael Dunn claims that Davis reached for and lifted up a weapon looking to Dunn like a rifle barrel and attempts to exit the vehicle, so Dunn open fires 3 quick shots through the rear door of the Durango. As the driver of the Durango flips into reverse and begins backing away, Dunn fires another 3 shots and then 4 more as the teens in the Durango are trying to get away. Nine out of ten shots hit the SUV and three went through the rear door. The Durango escapes an adjacent parking lot down the way, and Dunn’s fiancée, who heard all the shooting, gets in the car and they drive away.
The teens try to find out if anyone’s hurt, help their friend and then return to the gas station. Dunn and his fiancée are long gone by then. He doesn’t call the police, and they head back to their hotel room where they order a pizza and Dunn walks his puppy named Charlie. The police arrive at the gas station and Jordan Davis dies of his wounds. He had one bullet in his left leg and hip and one bullet tore through his liver, on an upward right to left angle through both lungs, hitting his spine and severing his aorta above the heart.
The next day, Dunn and his fiancée make the 2 ½ hour journey home to Satellite Beach in Broward County, and he still has not called the police. Although Dunn claims he explained to his fiancée about the weapon he saw, she doesn’t remember him saying this. The next afternoon, after seeing the story of a teen shot dead in a red Durango the night before, Michael Dunn finally arranges to have the police notified and he surrenders.
Dunn made the audacious claim in court that it didn’t matter if he called the police a minute later, a day later or a month later. The facts aren’t going to change and this was self-defense. There was no crime at all, in Michael Dunn’s mind.
Here’s the problem: If the jury agrees that Dunn acted lawfully, then Florida needs to change the law. Dunn could have rolled up the windows and locked the doors, and he could have been ready with his firearm if Davis fully approached him with a weapon or tried to enter his vehicle. Without that, we have to take his word. That’s just not enough when there’s a fatality. Dunn could have gone out the passenger door with his firearm and taken cover on the other side of his car.
Michael Dunn deserved the presumption of innocence and he had the right to a fair trial, even though I always felt the facts were stacked against him. Dunn had two things going against him. One was his claim that the teen in the rear seat reached for and raised a weapon Dunn thought was a firearm and the other was his claim the teen then exited or attempted to exit the car.
This seemed to be added in after the fact because his fiancée testified he never mentioned anything about a weapon and forensics seemed to show that Jordan Davis never exited the vehicle, and was in fact ducking to his left in an effort to avoid getting shot. The other problem was that Dunn, who claims that Davis had a dangerous weapon, never calls the police and apparently he tried to just forget the whole thing and pretend it never happened.
Michael Dunn’s demeanor and personality in court surprised me, because I had an idea in my head that he was a drunken loud mouth bully type of a guy. In court he seemed very mild-mannered and he had a high, soft voice.. He seemed highly intelligent and he came across as very honest and believable on the stand. One gets the impression of a highly cultured mild-mannered man who probably went to fancy private schools. Cracks have formed in this impression given some recently revealed statements from a neighbor, though.
He did say he had never been in any kind of conflict with strangers – ever. He testified that he had been carrying a firearm with him for over a decade, and this is the first time he needed to use it in what he described was a life or death situation. There’s no doubt that Jordan Davis got out of hand, and even his friends tried to cool him down. The evidence suggest that Michael Dunn got out of hand, too. It’s truly a pity if Dunn’s sent to prison. But what about a 17 year-old who’s six feet under for being a teen? The jury is still deliberating while I’m writing this article.
Ironically, the reason Jordan Davis escalated things to such a high level is not because of what Michael Dunn said. It’s because Dunn did not respond to Davis’ taunts. Jordan Davis sensed weakness, and he foolishly tried to exploit it, not knowing that Dunn was armed. Or maybe he was trying to amuse his friends. Isn’t this the same thing that happened in Zimmerman, too? Zimmerman had a round chambered at all times, while Dunn had to practically wipe the dust off his gun and rack a round in.
Dunn explained that he could not say why he didn’t call the police and he didn’t realize he had killed anyone. He insisted that he did see a weapon and that he continued firing to prevent the teens from firing back. He described the teens as 4 dangerous men who all could have been armed and ready to shoot him. He said he fired 10 rounds because he was worried about “blind fire hitting his fiancee or other customers. Blind fire, he explained, is when assailants fire back in the direction of the target without really aiming.
I was struck by the fact that Michael Dunn seemed to be the epitome of a far right conservative Republican, and the passengers in the Durango seemed to be fans of liberal Democrat Barack Obama, though none of this is necessarily so. But Thanksgiving 2013 was just days after Obama, hated by many Republicans, was just re-elected President of the United States in a very bitter and contentious fight against Republican candidate Mitt Romney, the Mormon Bishop.
I imagined Dunn at his son’s wedding, getting a little liquored up and grousing with friends about the re-election of Obama, the first black President, only to find himself at a gas mart parked perilously close to an SUV full of back men cranking some belligerent sounding rap music to the max. This was just the workings of my imagination, and there is no way to know, but this was also my intuition, which I tried to suppress because, unlike the murdertainment industry, I believe strongly in the right to the presumption of innocence for the accused as well as the right to a fair trial.
Even though I had a nagging feeling that Dunn’s story didn’t add up, I do believe strongly in the Constitutional rights of the accused and I abhor all the pre-trial judgments made in the media about defendants. In spite of this I did include Dunn in an article I wrote with a friend in December entitled the “law abiding gun Owner”. This was an article highlighting various gun owners I call “idiots with guns” who shot unarmed people to death or were otherwise responsible for a shooting death. In that article, I predicted that Dunn would be found guilty of 2nd degree murder and he would be sentenced to 20 to 30 years in a Florida prison. I forgot about how harsh Florida is in sentencing.
The other thing that struck me during the trial was that Michael Dunn had used the words “Are you talking to me?” before he pulled his gun”. This may be too prejudicial of me and it’s unfair, because this could very well have been an honest and innocent question that Dunn asked the teens. I shouldn’t be thinking this, and it’s unfair but I can’t help myself. A quick check on the net revealed that I’m not the only one. That phrase does ring a bell as the phrase Robert DeNiro said as he practiced confronting an enemy in front of a mirror with a big gun. The man from Taxi Driver was also a soft-spoken and meek man, who slowly became more than a little angered and more than a little crazy as the film progressed.
“You talking to me?” is the phrase Deniro keeps repeating right before he rapidly pulls out a handgun and points it at his imagined opponent. Actually, it’s the taxi driver’s own mindset that’s creating the dangerous and devious opponent staring him down in the mirror. When DeNiro draws the gun, he is really drawing on himself and portending his own destruction.
I understand the 2nd Amendment rights of gun owners. I understand there are millions of guns being kept and operated safely daily. I know there are millions of gun owners acting responsibly and reasonably, but a series of thoughts always surfaces in my mind in relation to concealed carriers.
Many times you find what you are looking for. If you are looking for danger and threats, you will find them. But sometimes they seem far more intense than they actually are and sometimes they may even be non-existent, but just arise according to your mindset. This worries me a lot. True law-abiding gun owners are generally level headed and even keeled people who would only pull a weapon as a last resort. But more and more gun owners are not this traditional type of gun owner, and that’s what worries me.
People wonder why Michael Dunn didn’t just brandish his weapon and let the 4 “trouble-makers” in the red Durango know he was armed and dangerous. But that’s not the training. , Many don’t understand that the training is not to pull the weapon unless you’re prepared to use it. Once you pull it you do not hesitate, you do not shoot to warn or brandish the weapon. You immediately aim at center mass and shoot to kill. This is euphemistically called “stopping the threat”.
I’ve often felt that a little brandishing would go a long way, and intuitively it seems better to warn and fend off a possible serious fight than it is to have a fatal situation. But then you may get into a wild West situation, where each is waiting for the other and even daring and double-dog daring the other to make the first move.
In Florida, you can shoot an unarmed person to death and they often call it “self-defense” and no action is taken. Yet, if you shoot into the air on a holiday, you can be jailed. If you fire a warning shot, it could be a felony. A woman who discharged a weapon in her own home without hitting anyone was sentenced to 20 years in prison in Florida. That’s kind of a grand bizzaro world where it seems pulling and firing a weapon is frowned upon, but if you shoot and you kill, that’s just fine.
Gun crazy Arizona surprised me by passing a law which now makes it okay to show your gun to a potential enemy and brandish the weapon. It seems that’s a better alternative than automatically shooting a person to death. This is because something, which may actually be trivial that you experienced in the mindset you happen to have on a particular day, sent you into Clint Eastwood mode.
The obvious similarities to the Zimmerman case always arrive in relation to the Michael Dunn case, another Florida gun rights case. My friend and co-blogger from California, Amanda, disagrees vehemently with me, but I thought the Zimmerman case was correctly decided. It’s a sore subject nationwide on both sides and I think people who haven’t taken a look should review the closing arguments from both sides which is available on Youtube video.
It’s always awful when a teenager, who’s job rightly should be to be rebellious, to experiment, to test boundaries and to make big mistakes, ends up having their life tragically and violently cut short by a nervous and scared gun owner who may have contributed to the situation by his or her own paranoia, preconceived notion or ornery state of mind.
Then you have a situation where one side of the action is dead, and the other party may or may not be making things up to justify a use of deadly force. A jury of diverse and ordinary citizens are then left to sort things out and deal with the strange and sometimes counter-intuitive concepts of the law and especially of self-defense law.
I have to hand it to the parents of Jordan Davis, who seem like really wise and wonderful human beings and good parents of a basically good but boundary testing teen. Jordan was just out enjoying himself with some friends on a Holiday weekend Black Friday. He was off from high school and just cruising the malls checking out the young ladies and perhaps experimenting with acting like a tough guy or a gangster. That’s just normal life and no one should have their life terminated for being a kid.
The reason why I really celebrate the actions of Jordan’s parents is because they wanted this case to be about a middle aged man and four teens, and not about race, as all the passengers in the Durango were African Americans. Jordan’s parents wanted no part of a racially charged Zimmerman type trial and they went out of their way to avoid that.
One can just imagine they refused interviews by folks trying to draw that kind of a story out on both sides. One can imagine they turned down some offers from the contemporaneously heroic and controversial people such as Al Sharpton and Benjamin Crump. Certainly one can imagine Jordan Davis’ Mom and Dad turning down so many solicitations form Date Line NBC and 48 hours as well as those Murdertainment Monsters at CNN’s Head Line News (HLN).
These shameless and sick opportunists from HLN claim that they are there to tell the victim’s story. They want to present themselves as victim’s advocates. But they could still do that after the trial concludes, couldn’t they? Don;t hold your breath. Murdertainment is big money.
These are the real heroes of this awful story. Jordan’s Mom, Lucia Mcbath who had to sit there and listen to Michael Dunn recount his last words shouted at her son: “You’re not gonna kill me, you Son of a Bitch!”
Lucia McBath and Ron Davis had to sit there and watch as Michael Dunn became emotional and teared up when he talked about his fiancée, whose life he claimed he also was trying to protect. They had to sit and watch as Michael Dunn shed tears about his dog, Charlie, that was at the pet friendly hotel where the couple ate their pizza and supposedly waited in terror for the Red Dodge Durango to come charging up in retaliation. They also had to sit there as Michael Dunn remained stoic and showed absolutely no concern, emotion, or remorse about their 17 year-old son who’s life his actions violently terminated. No matter whether he honestly was justified in killing or whether he was well coached and scripted by his very capable and experienced attorney, Dunn’s behavior seemed very chillingly cold.
The nation is still awaiting the verdict as I write this and as Amanda does some last-minute research. No one knows what the jury will decide, but many of us have ideas about what the verdict should be. What a tremendously high price we have to pay to get to the polite society of a fully armed populace envisioned by 2nd Amendment activists. What a strange atmosphere that’s been created in America for all who hope for a more enlightened society.
The way I see it, if a person demands their first Amendment rights to carry a concealed weapon, they best demonstrate some damned responsibility. There shouldn’t be excuses for not calling the police after an event like this and we should not have to believe Dunn’s self-serving story that the teens hid the seemingly non-existent “weapon”. We want to believe that Dunn had a valid and stark reason for why he pulled his weapon and fired 10 rounds at human beings for the first and only time in his life. But we are also afraid about the what-ifs. What if he is just trying to make his story understandable to reasonable people?
So if I am giving a “what if”, doesn’t that mean I’m showing I have reasonable doubt? No, because putting all the elements together, this seems to be in no way reasonable, to me, anyway.
If Michael Dunn is acquitted or only found guilty of manslaughter or if the jury hangs, I will not be happy, but I will respect the decision. I would expect then for the fireworks of outrage to begin, this time after the trial instead of before. I will just simply change the title of this article from Way to go Florida! Michael Dunn is Done! to something more fitting. My observations and thoughts still remain steadfast and aren’t about to change anytime soon.
I want to celebrate this verdict because I believe it will send a strong message about personal responsibility. I hope it will put concealed carriers on notice that you can’t just pull a gun in an unreasonable state of mind and then hide behind self-defense laws and invent evidence as an afterthought. Maybe it will give another gun owner appropriate pause before yet another young life is blown away and his family and friends are left to pick up the shattered pieces.
BTW, This State’s Assistant Prosecutor John Guy seems like someone’s golden boy and someone is obviously pulling strings to set him up for a high profile win, because he’s a less than mediocre prosecutor. Really, this Guy needs to get into politics, because he’s a real dud.
If the verdict is other than expected, don’t blame Dunn and don’t blame the prosecution, it’s Florida law that you can blame. Let’s get rid of it before complete insanity spreads like a virus to the more reasonable states.
If Dunn walks, maybe I should give this article a new title:
If Dunn’s law is The Law of the land, then the law of the land must Change!
Your opinion is welcome!
All Rights Reserved
Looks like my intuition was right. You really should take a look at this:
Key stories about the Michael Dunn case: