A North Miami-Dade man was justified in fatally shooting a pipe-wielding, drug-addled attacker during a wild confrontation on a sidewalk four years ago, a judge has ruled.
The first-degree murder charge against Luis Martinez, 29, was dismissed late last month. It was the fourth Miami-Dade murder case dismissed by a judge since the 2005 passage of Florida’s controversial Stand Your Ground law.
The law eliminated a citizen’s duty to retreat before using deadly force to counter a deadly threat. The law also gives judges greater leeway in granting “immunity” to people deemed to have acted in self-defense.
The state’s Stand Your Ground law has drawn worldwide attention since neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman shot and killed unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin during a brawl in a Sanford gated community last year. In a divisive decision earlier this year, a Seminole County jury acquitted Zimmerman of a murder charge. Critics of the law say it encourages vigilantism and gives criminals an easier avenue to beat violent charges.
The dismissal of Martinez’s murder charge, however, is unlikely to raise much controversy. “This was one of those times where justice was really served,” said Rick Hermida, Martinez’s lawyer. “This is why the Legislature passed this law. Luis was in reasonable fear of deadly force and he had no choice but to fire his weapon.”
The case arose in September 2009 when Enrique “Chino” Prado, who had been using Xanax, crack cocaine and marijuana, began picking fights with people outside Martinez’s home in the 3500 block of Northwest 97th Street.
Martinez’s brother rousted his sibling, who had been asleep inside the home. During the ensuing scuffle, Prado — who was armed with a realistic-looking pellet gun — pushed Martinez’s mother; she fell and broke her finger.
In the frenzy, Prado dropped his pellet gun and ran off, later speeding past in his car, nearly hitting Martinez’s stepfather, according to court records. Martinez called Miami-Dade police. An officer arrived but left soon after, telling Martinez to throw away the pellet gun.
Not long after, however, Prado, after having taken more drugs, returned with two friends. Outside the home, Prado extended his hand as if offering to shake Martinez’s hand. But instead, he pulled Martinez toward him and raised a pipe “over his head to strike him.”
Martinez, whose gun was legal and registered, fired three to four times, hitting Prado, who stumbled toward his car and collapsed. Martinez turned his attention toward Prado’s two pals, who took off running.
Martinez heard a noise and turned back to see Prado’s “arms and legs moving as if he was reaching for something.” Martinez fired another volley at Prado.
Martinez called 911 and cooperated with police. Officers found a folding pocket knife belonging to Prado near the dead man’s body, although Martinez said he did not recall seeing the knife.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Yvonne Colodny ruled that Martinez’s second volley of bullets was justified. His fear that night was “reasonable” because of Prado’s “relentless” aggression, Colodny wrote in her Sept. 30 order.