FL Sheriff Bob Gualtieri: Stand Your Ground ‘Created a Standard, That Is A Largely Subjective Standard’

In explaining why he didn’t arrest the shooter, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told reporters his hands were tied because the stand-your-ground law “created a standard” for the use of deadly force. | Courtesy of POLITICO

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has stated that in enacting Florida’s stand your ground law, the legislature “created a standard, that is a largely subjective standard” for the use of deadly force by a shooter. The good Sheriff also stated that his agency and his deputies could be civilly liable if they arrested Michael Drejka.

“My decision not to arrest is not condoning or approving,” Gualtieri told Bay News 9 of the shooting.

For those who don’t know, Sheriff Gualtieri is no friend of the 2nd Amendment. When open carry was being considered in the legislature a few sessions back, Sheriff Gualtieri said that law abiding Floridians in his jurisdiction who carried openly would “At a minimum, [sic] they’re going to be thrown down on the ground with a gun pointed at them or worse.”

Sheriff Gualtieri’s attitude towards the Second Amendment and armed self defense amongst the citizenry is one of contempt and scorn. He believes that stand your ground gives shooters criminal immunity, makes an arresting agency civilly liable, and law inforcement impossible.

But Sheriff Gualtieri is plainly wrong.

“Nothing in either the 2005 law or the 2017 law prohibits a Sheriff from making an arrest in a case where a person claims self-defense if there is probable cause that the use of force was unlawful,” said Marion Hammer, Tallahassee’s NRA lobbyist who helped shepherd “stand your ground” through the GOP-led Florida Legislature.

“Nothing in the law says a person can sue the Sheriff for making an arrest when there is probable cause,” Hammer added in an emailed statement to POLITICO.

Even fellow Florida Republicans are turning on Sheriff Gualtieri.

Sen. Dennis Baxley (R), who sponsored the law in 2005 when he was a member of the Florida House said the law clearly says a person using deadly force in self-defense must “reasonably” believe it’s necessary.

“’Stand your ground’ uses a reasonable-person standard. It’s not that you were just afraid,” Baxley said. “It’s an objective standard.” – NY Times

Sen. Rob Bradley (R) who sponsored the 2017 legislation that says authorities must show with “clear and convincing evidence” that there are grounds to prosecute a Stand Your Ground defendant stated;

“An individual using a gun in self-defense in Florida must have an objective, reasonable fear of imminent death or serious bodily harm. This idea that Florida law is concerned about the subjective perceptions of a shooter is wrong.”

Even more shocking, the members of the Florida legal system stating that Sheriff Gualtieri is wrong.

Former Broward County prosecutor Fausto Sanchez said standard jury instructions for these cases, he said, say the defense is appropriate if a “reasonably cautious and prudent person under the same circumstances would have believed that the danger could have been avoided only through the use of that force.” Sanchez said “that’s the objective standard. When the sheriff says he’s taking the shooter’s word for it, that’s incomplete. That’s not the standard.”

What’s more, Sanchez said, the sheriff failed to take into account another part of the self-defense statute that says a person can use or threaten “force, except deadly force” if “the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force.”

Echoing those comments, Alachua County Public Defender Stacy A. Scott said: “I just don’t agree with the sheriff’s assessment at all. … This is a guess, but I wonder if this is a political tactic on his part because it sounds like he doesn’t like the law.”- POLITICO

In the end, it appears that the Sheriff is sensing which ways the political winds are blowing in Pinellas County and he wants to stay in office. So he is once again, he’s blaming the Second Amendment.


  1. avatar Gator says:

    Good for Florida! That was a case of homicide in my book.

    1. avatar Bigus Dickus says:

      Then your book is wrong.

      1. avatar Hannibal says:

        Not likely. Shooting someone who is backing away from you, unarmed, is a real good case for homicide.

        1. avatar CC says:

          Except that s not what occurred. what occurred is a physical assault that could have resulted in in grievous bodily harm (the bad guy slammed the good guy down onto the pavement. and EVERY reason believe that assault would have continued.

          Taking a single half step back is not walking away and if you know much about close quarters fighting is a move that signals continued attack.

    2. avatar Ralph says:

      Even a killing in self defense is homicide. Justifiable homicide, but homicide nonetheless.

      FWIW, I don’t think this was a case of justifiable homicide.

    3. avatar zerofoo says:

      In your “book” what is the correct response to assault?

      Do you wait to respond until you suffer a skull fracture and hope that you survive the encounter?

      Are you clairvoyant? Do you know which assailants intend to end your life and which assailants intend to merely break your nose?

      How far are we going to go to protect assailants? To meet your standard we require that assault victims know who intends to use lethal force against them before the assault occurs.

      Or – we could simply allow people to defend themselves against assault – with lethal force.

      1. avatar Gator says:

        Being scared is not a license to kill. That’s not what Stand Your Ground allows you to do.

  2. avatar Garrison Hall says:

    Of course none of this applies to the Sheriff, his deputies, or other LEO’s in Fla. who are protected by implied immunity laws. When they shoot somebody under the exact same circumstances that would send another civilian (cops are civilians too) to jail . . . the exact same DA and prosecutor that would look the other way for a cop will happily send a private citizen to prison for life.

    What states (better still congress) need to do is pass laws which stipulate that the same evaluations that are appropriate in implied immunity cases can be used as appropriate defenses in private citizen stand-your-ground and self-defense cases. As America continues to arm itself and more and more people are carrying weapons for self-defense, having these two separate standards for similar incidents is increasingly, glaringly, absurd. Fair is fair and implied immunity that lets cops walk while private citizens can be sent to jail ain’t fair.

    1. avatar Huntmaster says:

      If a cop asks to see your ID and you comply by pulling out your wallet to show him. Then he shoots you because he thought he saw a gun, well he gets a pass. If one of us thinks somebody is pulling a gun, well… there better be a gun. As it should be. There is something terribly inconsistent here.

  3. avatar m. says:

    fair is where you can get cotton candy if you have the $$$. don’t expect d-sucker legislate-whores to do anything that does not benefit them.

    1. avatar m. says:

      something might be done if they perceive their cushy, job-for-life, do-nothing positions are threatened and they have to leave office (the horror!) to seek private (eek!) employment.

  4. avatar former water walker says:

    For what I CONSIDER the BEST explanation for the Floriduh shooting check out The Yankee Marshall on YouTube. And he’s a former cop. Not advisable but understandably lawful…far from murder but when you assault someone and land on PAVEMENT all bets are off.

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      No, all bets aren’t off. You don’t get to shoot someone who shoved you down and is no longer presenting as a threat- indeed, is backing up before the gun is even displayed. This is almost the opposite of the Martin\Zimmerman case where the evidence corroborated that the shooter was under attack at the time of firing (close range shot, injuries to shooter’s head, etc). Here, unlike in that case, there’s video. Is it premeditated murder? No. But there is a convincing case for manslaughter. Maybe not proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but more than enough for a charge.

      1. avatar CC says:

        I suggest you look a the case law. slamming someone down to the pavement does qualify as reasonable threat of death or grievous injury.

  5. avatar Just Sayin says:

    Luis, once again I find you to be correct.
    (I never believe something just because I read it.)
    “…Sheriff Gualtieri said that law abiding Floridians in his jurisdiction who carried openly would “At a minimum, [sic] they’re going to be thrown down on the ground with a gun pointed at them or worse.”…”
    As a Floridian I keep track of things around the state through my friends, media, and proven historical actions and records.
    Sheriff G. is no friend to the electorate he serves, the State of Florida, or the Constitution of the United States.
    I hope his electorate wakes up and votes his ass out next election opportunity.

    BTW- I have two kids attending FSU. Some day, when I’m up in Tally, I’m gonna buy you a beer.
    Keep up the good work…

  6. avatar Mark N. says:

    “This is a guess, but I wonder if this is a political tactic on his part because it sounds like he doesn’t like the law.”-

    DING! And what better way than in a very public way to say that he cannot arrest on a possible bad shoot because of the law and exposure for false arrest? What will people THINK?!?!?

  7. avatar Geoff "Mess with the Bull, get the Horns" PR says:

    The case has been officially handed over to the state attorney general.

    Where I predict, they will ‘investigate’ and sit on it until they determine the direction and intensity of the political winds.

    Personally, I think he’s gonna get charged…

  8. avatar Jay in FloriDuh says:

    As a senior citizen and handicapped. I might have done the same as the guy tossed to the ground. With one exception after reading the story a few times.
    The aggressor was not directly in his face so to speak. It does appear as if he turned slightly to walk away from descriptions.
    Therefore no longer being a threat. But this all happens in a split second so??????? I think the older man who shot the guy. Will be eventually arrested. But I also feel no jury would convict him of murder. More then likely let him go free and clear.
    The sherrif in Tampa is well in a word, an asshole. Sorry for being so direct but its the only way to descibe him.
    He should be tossed out at the 1st chance by the folks in Pinellas County and Id like to think will be.

    1. avatar Hannibal says:

      Did you watch the video, though? This wasn’t a split second thing. From the guy getting shoved it was 5 seconds until he fired. During that time he drew his gun, took aim, and at no point did the decedent move towards him- in fact, he moved back.

      1. avatar Warlocc says:

        Actually, look at the timestamps. They’re playing the video in slow motion to get the very reaction you’re giving.

        It’s closer to 2 seconds between draw and fire, and the aggressor only starts to back off as the gun is exposed. 3 seconds tops, for this guy to process that he’s not being attacked by the guy standing over him.

        While I disagree with the entire confrontation and the reasons for it, it’s clearly a defensive shooting.

  9. avatar Hannibal says:

    I think the Sheriff is full of shit. He’s trying to avoid doing his job and blame the voters he doesn’t like for it. Every time he opens his mouth he shows that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I’m sure he thought this would be a neat little election issue for him but didn’t realize that everyone was going to dunk on him, including ‘his’ side.

    That said, so what? It is the job of the police to investigate and the job of the prosecutor’s office to charge. Yes, police arrest people; but it’s supposed to be procedural, a necessary evil. Here the shooter’s identity is known. What huge benefit would there have been to put the guy in cuffs when they can do it tomorrow if the grand jury returns an indictment? Far be it from me to suggest that innocent until proven guilty should apply in terms of being thrown in prison, but here we are. Or is this guy a hardened criminal we need to get off the streets and we haven’t been told about it? It’s all optics.

    It’s also hard for me to feel that bad for anyone in this situation. You have a woman who is so entitled that she parks in handicapped spots (and says in later interviews that she can park wherever she wants). You have her boyfriend who, upon seeing a verbal confrontation, immediately commits assault on an older man. Then you have the older man, who apparently got in conflicts over parking spots there before, and doesn’t hesitate for a second to blow away someone who shoved him even though the person is unarmed and walking away. It strikes me that everyone here probably went through life getting away with being as much of a jerk as possible until consequences suddenly arrived in that parking lot.

    1. avatar Sian says:

      He’s not trying to avoid doing his job.

      It’s worse than that.

      He’s trying to get a law he personally dislikes changed, by exploiting an event that occurred under his watch, knowing that by not arresting and making all these public statements that he well get the left and the RINOs riled.

  10. avatar 22winmag says:

    The Sheriff’s office and the DA’s office are more often than not- the minor league affiliates or major league political offices.

    Behold Exhibit A!

  11. avatar TFred says:

    This is a classic display of the Strawman fallacy – not in debate, but in manipulating public opinion. The sheriff is crafting a false scenario (that the current law precludes him from arresting someone, even if their actions were not justified) in the hopes that he can generate enough emotion to influence the Florida legislature to change the law.

    For this liar, one unpunished murder is a trivial price to pay, if it leaves the law-abiding citizens of the entire state of Florida unable to defend themselves without fear of their lives being ruined through malicious prosecution and / or civil litigation.

  12. avatar Jim Bullock says:

    “Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has stated that in enacting Florida’s stand your ground law, the legislature “created a standard, that is a largely subjective standard” for the use of deadly force by a shooter.”

    As opposed to an “objective” after the fact determination by people who weren’t there that defensive shooter could have done something else safely? “Stand your ground” doesn’t say that. It relieves a defensive shooter of the duty to retreat if someone who doesn’t like them much can imagine that was an option.

    Duty to retreat includes the legal presumption that the attacked victim, in the heat of that surprise, can, will, and must think clearly, reasonable, considering all information that can be developed with infinite time and money for a later trial. If we can weave a plausible story that you could have retreated, you’re guilty.

    How may people will die under this law because they hesitate to protect themselves? Because if it saves just one life…. (Asking for a friend.)

    “My decision not to arrest is not condoning or approving,”

    Sheriff Haute Coutoure there — I’m sure. OK, sure-ish. OK, you can’t prove that I can’t be sure … I recall that last name from some fashion show — seems disappointed that this situation is governed by laws, not whim, made by other people, not him. Sad.

  13. avatar H says:

    How is a guy yelling at your wife/girlfriend automatically the “good” guy.

    What’s a problem is if we defend the law over what we see happen. The existence of the law needs no defense. What’s important here is does it apply?

    If a homeowner finds a perp in his house and starts to bang the perps head repeatedly on a slate floor and the perp shoots him at close range does the stand your ground law apply to the perp?

    Do you stand around and let someone yell at your lady? What if the yeller appears to be more and more threatening?

    Since when is a shove life threatening? If you can’t take a shove don’t start something.

  14. avatar burley says:

    He said: ““At a minimum, [sic] they’re going to be thrown down on the ground with a gun pointed at them or worse.”

    Sheriff Gualtieri’s attitude towards the Second Amendment and armed self defense amongst the citizenry is one of contempt and scorn. He believes that stand your ground gives shooters criminal immunity”

    The cognitive dissonance required to make that statement must be an audible roar. To insist that the badge gives him and his deputies the criminal immunity to assault citizens is the real problem, not citizens defending themselves.

    1. avatar Joe R. says:

      He just made all of his “sheriffs” the enemy.

      But we knew that because he made himself a 3-star general.

      Protect yourself from threats, FL. Especially those greater-than-equal-pig MFrs.

  15. avatar Sian says:

    IMO, Gualtieri saw this as an opportunity to make national news and try to get self-defense law in Florida, which he disagrees with, changed. Remember he was a lawyer before he was Sheriff.

    By calling attention to this matter, by publically announcing he wasn’t going to make an arrest, by getting behind the podium and explaining that he’s just ‘following the law’, he’s deliberately pushing this into the news cycle.

  16. avatar Brewski says:

    Captain Obvious says:

    When the police have a free pass in the form of unconstitutionally legislated means to dodge punishment and legal action for violating ROE and JOSP, they will continue to do so.

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