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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (AP Photo/Joel Auerbach)
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By Terry Spencer, AP

In a case involving Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” law, Gov. Ron DeSantis has been asked to reinvestigate the fatal shooting of a drunken, unarmed man who mistakenly pounded on a wrong door in the middle of the night.

A request to appoint a special prosecutor in the case was made by attorney Mark O’Mara, best known as the defense attorney for George Zimmerman, who was acquitted on murder charges in the internationally publicized shooting of Trayvon Martin more than six years ago.

This time around, O’Mara is representing the father of Ryan Modell, who was fatally shot by Steve Taylor in March 2016 at the Fort Myers condominium complex where both lived.

In both the Martin and Modell slayings, prosecutors cited the “stand your ground” law in deciding, at least initially, not to prosecute. The law says people who justifiably believe they face death or great bodily harm can use deadly force without first retreating, but they cannot be the confrontation’s instigator.

Family members of Martin, 17, and now Modell, 32, claim the shooters were the instigators and therefore weren’t entitled to use the law. Ultimately, O’Mara didn’t use the law as a defense in the Zimmerman case, but it was cited by police who waited 44 days to arrest him.

In the Modell case, O’Mara argues that “stand your ground” does not apply. He says Taylor should not have gone outside with his gun and pursued Modell after Modell walked away from his door.

“You are not allowed to put yourself in a position where you have to shoot,” says O’Mara, who wants Taylor charged with second-degree murder. DeSantis’ office said the Republican governor is examining the request to appoint a special prosecutor to reinvestigate. A similar plea to Republican former Gov. Rick Scott went nowhere.

Modell’s father, Sandy Modell, said he believes now-retired State Attorney Stephen Russell and his chief deputy, Amira Fox, who successfully ran to replace him in 2018, wanted to give the National Rifle Association a “stand your ground” victory and didn’t want to risk losing a high-profile case before the election.

Fox’s office and Taylor’s current and former attorneys, Matthew Toll and Robert Harris, declined to comment.

That Taylor shot Modell on the early morning of March 20, 2016, is undisputed. Modell and Taylor lived in the complex in identical buildings, each in units numbered 102. They didn’t know each other.

According to Lee County sheriff’s reports and court records, on March 19, a Saturday, Modell, his girlfriend and friends began hours of drinking. A former captain of the University of Central Florida tennis team, Modell was celebrating his new job calibrating medical devices.

Meanwhile, Taylor, a tractor equipment salesman who served on a tank during the first Gulf War, and his wife, Patrice Taylor, stayed home. Taylor, then 46, says he drank four beers before going to bed about 10:30 p.m.

By 2:30 a.m. March 20, Modell had a blood-alcohol content of 0.25%, triple the limit for driving in Florida. It is believed Modell, dressed only in shorts, intended to return to his condo from the pool, but instead mistakenly pounded on the Taylors’ door, awakening them.

Steve Taylor, dressed in boxers, retrieved his 10mm Glock and turned on the porch light. He said he told Modell through the door he had the wrong unit, but Modell didn’t respond, appearing drugged.

“I was scared that the Grim Reaper is outside,” Taylor said in a 2019 deposition.

He said when Modell stepped back, he opened the door. He said he pointed his gun and warned Modell not to approach, but Modell charged.

“He moved … like a linebacker,” Taylor said. Modell stood 6-foot-1 (1.8 meters) and weighed 224 pounds (101 kilograms).

O’Mara concedes Taylor could have legally shot Modell then because he would have been protecting himself from an intruder.

Instead, Taylor slammed the door on Modell’s toe, while Patrice Taylor called 911. Taylor then went outside with his gun, later telling investigators he worried Modell would find the back door, which he said had a faulty lock.

O’Mara asserts that Taylor at that point became the aggressor, losing his self-defense rights. He says Taylor should have safely awaited deputies inside, guarding both doors. Instead, he went down the walkway and found Modell sitting, holding his bloody toe. Patrice Taylor came outside, warning Modell she had called police. The couple said Modell charged her, but she got inside and closed the door.

Taylor said he kept his gun pointed at Modell, who washed his foot with a hose. He said he activated his gun’s laser pointer and the beam hit Modell’s face, angering him.

“The thing went bad,” Taylor said in the deposition. He said Modell sprayed water at him, made threats and then charged.

O’Mara says Taylor committed aggravated assault by pointing a gun at a nearly naked, obviously unarmed man, and Modell’s reaction to the laser was understandable because he believed he was about to be shot.

“If you put a laser on my chest, there is one of two things I am going to do: duck and run or kill you,” O’Mara says.

Taylor said he ran backward 100 feet (30 meters) until he was trapped by hedges. He said he fired when Modell got within 2 feet (0.6 meters), killing him. O’Mara says evidence suggests Modell was several feet back. Taylor surrendered to a deputy who arrived seconds later.

“I only fired the weapon to save my life,” Taylor said in the deposition.

Sandy Modell says his son drank too much that night and should have been charged with disorderly conduct, but “not executed.”

“My son is dead because some hothead with a gun had to play a big shot for his wife,” Modell says.

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  1. Following somebody around so as to defend yourself is not exactly stand-your-ground material.

    • No, but I think this is the key:
      “Taylor said he ran backward 100 feet (30 meters) until he was trapped by hedges. He said he fired when Modell got within 2 feet (0.6 meters), killing him.”

      • Taylor blew it by opening the door and pursuing the guy. If he was worried about a faulty back door…then he should have stayed in his apartment and covered the back door.

        He just murdered the guy, that’s all.

        • It’s tragic and could have possibly been avoided had he not gone outside (we have no way of knowing that the stupid, belligerent drunk wouldn’t have kicked in the door, or came in through the back). Then several things happen while outside, the last of which is the guy with the gun retreating 100 feet. It sounds like the people claiming the gun holder can’t pursue the drunk are perfectly okay with the drunk pursuing the gun guy. That’s even the attorney’s claim who said “he could only run or kill the guy.”

        • PTM and Dude,

          He just murdered the guy, that’s all.

          The home owner did NOT commit any crimes NOR forfeit his right to self-defense or stand-your-ground when he went outside his condominium. Wanting to keep someone in sight who was just beating on your door is NOT a crime.

          However, the homeowner screwed up when he pointed his firearm at the drunk for no reason while the drunk was washing his toe with a garden hose: THAT was felonious/aggravated assault. Since the homeowner was still armed after he stopped pointing his handgun at the drunk, the homeowner was still a credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm. I believe the drunk was justified at that point to rush the armed homeowner. (I think it was foolish. Nevertheless it was legally justified.) And the fact that the armed homeowner eventually shot the drunk demonstrates unequivocally that the armed homeowner was still a credible threat of death.

          This sounds like felony murder (second degree) to me as well, at least based on the limited narrative that we read in this article.

        • Sorry Vlad the right to self defense does not end at the door. I wouldn’t have left but it is not unreasonable to want to keep tabs on a violent man who attempted forced entry.

      • That was my thought too. Modell again became the agressor when Taylor retreated the 30 meters. Taylor only stood his ground when forced to by the hedge. Waited until harm was iminent to fire. While going out side was not good. Retreating was. Modell should have also retreated when Taylor did. Not pursueing a armed man. While both did things they should not have. I still think it was a good shooting bcause Modell cornered Taylor after Taylor retreated a considerable distance.

        • Modell was acting in self defense and closing ground on a coward, who just threathened Modell with imminent bodily harm or death.
          The drunk guy had every right to charge the gun owner, who tried to play cop. The armed guy became a deadly threat to the drunk when he pointed the gun at him over loud knocking, and again when he pointed the laser at the drunk guy. The drunk guy had every right to charge a person committing aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
          I can point a gun in your face and walk away. If you follow me out of hurt pride, then you have just become the aggressor and are a justifiable use of deadly force for me. Unless, you live in Texas, then you shoot the fleeing armed person in the back, as it is legal there.

    • I have zero sympathy for a moron drunk out of his mind. If you get that drunk you need to stay in your house you are not safe to anyone around you.

    • My problem started way before that, as in, somebody is ringing my doorbell at 2:30 am, I am calling 911 from my bedroom, not a chance I’m going to the door. Getting a gun, yes, but never answering the door.

      • Smart move, I would not answer the door either. I would have activated the extra zone on my phone app controlled sprinkler system, the zone is four high volume nozzles pointed DIRECTLY at my front door porch, it soaks the entire porch in a few seconds.
        After that, I would have grabbed the PPQ 45 on the nightstand and reviewed the front door camera feed for a good laugh.
        My lawn sprinkler guy told me of this little feature and it sold me on a new wi-fi controller with phone app access. I’ve actually used it a few time while not home. Big fun.

    • NY transplants on average don’t comprehend presumption of innocence, 2nd amendment intent, or nuances of self defense and demand Florida change its culture to suit their retirement/escape to something they are familiar with.

  2. Somebody is trying to put the spotlight on the Republican Governor & especially the Stand Your Ground laws,,, Probably someone with lots of moolaa or attorney’s trying to make a name got themselves…
    The dude probably shouldn’t have followed the guy outside,,, I’ll leave that up to the jury or the Gov…

  3. Modell was continuously aggressive throughout the encounter. If the above scenario is accurate, he both attempted to violently trespass into someone else’s home, and made multiple physical charges at people during the whole affair.

    Going outside was not the smartest move on Taylor’s part (I would likely not have), but is within his rights. Additionally, given that the cops have zero responsibility to show up, much less intervene, it’s not entirely unjustifiable if he fears immediate future harm to himself, or even others in the complex.

    The issue is him pointing the gun. Modell had clearly been a credible threat earlier (became one again later), but did the threat-o-meter reset to zero between him charging the guy’s wife and Taylor pointing a firearm at him? Keep on mind that given how this whole thing started, if Taylor had not fired on Modell, and Modell had killed or injured Taylor, I don’t think Taylor could have claimed self defense either.

    Based on what’s presented here, I don’t think the threat-o-meter went back to zero, (or at least I have reasonable doubt that it did), and think the shooting is therefore justified. I could be convinced otherwise with evidence (far more than someone’s summary of events) as to how the outdoor encounter went though.

    • Modell had clearly been a credible threat earlier (became one again later), but did the threat-o-meter reset to zero between him charging the guy’s wife and Taylor pointing a firearm at him?

      Oh. That is an outstanding question. I believe the legality or illegality of the entire event hinges on that very question. And I don’t think we have enough information in this summary to determine an answer.

      I therefore revise my earlier comment above: I am no longer confident that the homeowner’s action was second degree murder. It could, indeed, be legally justified self-defense.

    • The drunk guy is the only one who could have claimed stand your ground. The drunk guy was in the act of closing the distance on his armed attacker. Pointing the laser at the drunk guy was an escalation and made the gun owner into a justifiable threat of harm to the drunk guy. The drunk had every right to use force on an imminent threat of harm, only he was mentally and physically out matched, do to his intoxication.

  4. Moral of the story.. as we’re trained, Never go outside to confront a perp! Its asking for trouble. This Taylor was as stupid as they get.

    1. He opened the door.
    2. He went out to find the guy, etc.

    Just stupid, and he’ll pay for his stupidity in dollars and possible jail time. Last thing we should want, is a confrontation.

    • I don’t know. It is Florida after all.

      Short of picking someone off from 200 yards away, I’m not sure what one had to do to be convicted of murder in Florida.

      Even then I could see the argument, “Your honor, the look on his face I saw through my rifle scope made me feel afraid.”

      Florida: if the gators, pythons, or monkeys with herpes don’t get you, the fearful locals will.

    • I am not entirely sold on this “don’t go outside” theory. In this case, I believe that Taylor should have just stayed inside.

      However; not everyone lives in an urban or suburban community. Many people live rural. Their dwelling is just a small part of their property. I can think of numerous situations where a farmer/rancher/homesteader… would leave their house to check the property.

      If someone came pounding on my rural house door in the middle of the night, I don’t think I would be content to sit there in my house for the 1 to 2 hours for the sheriff’s deputy to show up. Most rural residents have huge sums of money and the means of survival on their property. Most of us are going to go outside, armed and make sure our homes are safe.

  5. the magical talisman laser did not deter the deceased, and it may have provoked him.

    “If you put a laser on my chest, there is one of two things I am going to do: duck and run or kill you.”

    yeah, you forgot die.

    it’s been said here before- don’t ompen the door.

  6. He opened the door and specifically put himself into harms way? That’s not even a good self defense argument in general, much less Stand Your Ground in particular.

    • SYG seems to be wildly misinterpreted, even by non-hysterical, non-media, and otherwise sane people… It doesn’t seem to apply to this since the defender didn’t try to stand his ground and instead ran until he was up against a hedge, and it obviously couldn’t apply in Zimmerman’s defense shooting either.

  7. Slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night; now qualified as a self-defense lawyer.

    “Stand Your Ground” seems completely predicated on a single word – “Stand”. As in no retreat. “Stand” cannot possibly be translated into any form of “pursue”.

    Slept at a Holiday Inn Express two nights ago; now qualified as a reasonable juror.

    Cannot see how I would (given the information available in this posting) vote to acquit.

    • For manslaughter? I agree, based on what I know. For 2nd degree murder? I might not vote to pin that on him (depending on tons of info I’m sure I don’t know about).

      • Based on the info here, murder 2 would be right out. You don’t run from someone for 100 feet until you hit a barrier as part of a crime-of-passion murder. Voluntary manslaughter (which is a charge under Florida law) you could argue for in court, but I would (again, based on the info here) still acquit for it as a juror. Why? Because there’s no proof that Taylor exited his apartment EXPECTING to encounter Modell. As such, the only question is whether he had the legal right to exit his apartment at all, which he obviously did. Once he encountered Modell, it would be frankly unreasonable to assume he was no longer a threat because of an injured toe; you wouldn’t condemn a man who drew his gun when re-encountering a mugger who had attempted an assault on him and then stubbed his toe while fleeing from the first draw.

        Now, is this a tragedy which could have been avoided with more caution on both the parts of the accused and the deceased? Yes, absolutely. But had Modell killed Taylor that night, a murder 2 charge would be a slam dunk. To accuse his would-be victim of murder (or negligence) you would have to prove that he deliberately escalated the situation with the intent of causing his (Modell’s) death. Murder 1 isn’t even an option for the charge here, so the prosecution clearly doesn’t have that.

  8. based on the info as presented in this write up, I don’t think its outlandish to say Taylor should be in front of a jury on a manslaughter beef.

    I would not have made the decisions he made specifically for the reason that i would expect to end up in the clink afterwards. If you think dude’s gonna find the back entrance or whatever, assume a defensive position and call the authorities.

  9. Guilty POS this guy wanted to impress his over reacting whore wife. This guy should go to prison and,,,, watch his wife leave him for some pecker wood!

  10. Leaving his home after pushing Modell out and locking the door was a major tactical mistake both physically and legally. If Taylor was worried about Modell entering through the back door, he should have covered it from inside.

    When Taylor went out to follow Modell, he became the aggressor but it can be argued that he regained his innocence by backing away from Modell. I don’t see how stand your ground can apply. Taylor didn’t try to stand his ground. When Modell charged, he retreated as far as he could before firing. This would make it self defense even in a duty to retreat state. (Retreat is required only if it leads to complete safety. Less dangerous isn’t good enough.) Since Modell was unarmed and heavily drunk, it could be argued, depending on Taylor’s physical ability, that shooting was a deadly response to a less than deadly attack.

    O’Mara is doing his job representing Modell’s family just like he did his job representing George Zimmerman.

    Stand your ground didn’t apply in the Martin/Zimmerman case because Zimmerman wasn’t standing. He was helpless on his back with Martin on top of him beating his head against the sidewalk. It would have been no different in a duty to retreat state.

    • Kendahl,

      When Taylor went out to follow Modell, he became the aggressor …

      Following someone does not make you an aggressor, nor is it a crime.

      In order to be an aggressor, Taylor would have had to charge Modell or threaten him. While Taylor did not charge Modell, Taylor did point his handgun at Modell which was a credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm. The monumentally important question is whether or not Modell was still a credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm (after attempting to break down Taylor’s door) to justify Taylor responding with a credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm.

      I do not believe that we have enough information in this article to determine that with any confidence.

  11. “…ran backward 100 feet (30 meters) until he was trapped by hedges.”

    Running backwards 100 feet isn’t sufficient to satisfy a “duty to retreat?” Duty to retreat still in force if you’re trapped by hedges? I’m not clear how “duty to retreat” bears on this at all. Guy was trapped, w a drunk, multiply aggressive athlete coming at him.

    Laser sight is provoking? “Dude, I really do have a gun, and if you corner me too hard I’ll have to fall back to using it.”

    Even so, lessons here are at least:

    — I’m thinking being a bit swaggery with a gun around your own home may put you in a position where you have to shoot a guy.

    — Being mind-blanking drunk, fronting off n chasing people might get you killed.

    • “Even a cat won’t follow a laser pointer for 100 feet.”

      Mine did.

      *Great* way to burn off kitten energy… 🙂

  12. Blood alcohol level at .25 for the dead guy. If he managed to get himself shot while making an ass of himself, that is his problem.

  13. Now what if the man who opened his door to the drunken man was a law enforcement officer ? Just sayin…..

  14. The information in this article and the comments coming down on both sides show us that it is very hard to determine what actually happened, who committed a crime, and who did not.

    This also illustrates three incredibly important lessons:
    (1) Even if you were legally justified in your actions, you might not survive an encounter.
    (2) Even if you were legally justified in your actions, the prosecutor might charge you with murder anyway which will cost you thousands of dollars and be a horrific experience even if the jury finds you not guilty — and downright catastrophic if the jury finds you guilty.
    (3) The only encounter that you are guaranteed to survive, avoid prosecution, and avoid imprisonment is the encounter that never actually happens.

    Unless there is an incredibly compelling reason to go outside, stay inside and let the drunk/antagonist walk away. There is little potential up side to going outside and a lot of potential down side to going outside.

  15. I hate to be the bearer of sad tidings, but the guy is dead simply because he didn’t lay his drunk ass down. Point and period. Plau stupid games and get stupid prizes.

  16. The drunk deserved to die. Period.

    My own system of defense is predicated on a door being kicked in or a window smashed, and as soon as the perp sets a foot inside, he gets to meet his make, no warning, just some well placed immediate shots.

  17. All this discussion is an exercise in bullshit. The guy is dead because of his own fault. He made three mistakes ; 1: he got uncontrollable drunk, his right. 2: he beat on someone’s door, in early morning hours. His wrong. 3: he made threats. His wrong. 4: he didn’t leave when told to, his wrong. That’s why he is dead. Four things anyone of which had he did different he’d be alive. How in good conscience can the homeowner be at fault. The only -he did wrong was trying to give the drunk a chance to leave. Same beginning at my door the do: comes open, the shotgun goes off.

  18. There is nothing the least bit “controversial” about Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, except among those that can’t read and comprehend. It doesn’t change the basic self-defense rules, it just adds that you are not required to retreat. Sometimes retreating is a good idea and sometimes it is not. Do you want to walk backwards in a high-stress confrontation and hope you don’t trip? Didn’t think so.

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