BRADENTON — An accused shoplifter felt the force of a Taser stun gun for a full minute and had to be hospitalized with an injury to the face from falling.
But Jason Daniel Hughes, 23, was not on the wrong end of a law enforcement officer’s Taser. Instead, a Bradenton liquor store owner’s son shot Hughes after he ran from Zodiac Fine Wine & Spirits with a stolen bottle of Hennessy cognac, according to a Bradenton Police Department report.
Zodiac’s owner declined to comment, saying his attorney and Bradenton police advised him not to.
Police reports say Hughes went into the liquor store, in the 5500 block of Cortez Road West, and asked several questions of the clerk, the owner’s son.
The victim told police when other customers came in the store, Hughes thought he was distracted and fled from the store with a stolen bottle of Hennessy cognac.
Bradenton Police Deputy Chief William Tokajer said the victim ran after Hughes and warned him he was going to fire his Taser. Hughes kept running and the victim opened fire, sending him to the ground in the parking lot, according to police reports.
Police reports say Hughes continued to resist so the victim pulled the trigger on his Taser again. The Taser C2 model, which the victim used, has a shock of 30 seconds, compared to 5 seconds for the Tasers used by law enforcement.
“The personal Tasers are designed to allow someone in danger to fire, drop the gun and have 30 seconds to run away,” Tokajer said.
In Wednesday’s case, the victim watched over Hughes, who had a gash on his forehead from hitting the pavement, and called for police and emergency workers.
The bottle of cognac was recovered undamaged from the fray.
Mexicali Border Cafe manager Rich O’Connell said his employees heard the commotion outside the restaurant two doors down from Zodiac and he went outside. He saw Hughes on the ground “in a semi-conscious state” and the victim with the Taser in his hand. O’Connell said theft attempts are frequent at Zodiac, including a few months ago when a suspect ran from the store and into the restaurant looking to escape. “They have been hit quite a few times,” said O’Connell. “With a bad economy, people need to be careful because people are getting stupid.”
O’Connell said lights from police, fire and emergency vehicles lit up the parking lot as workers tended to Hughes, who was taken to Blake Medical Center. After being treated there, Bradenton police arrested him on a shoplifting charge.
Police also confiscated the victim’s Taser, which was returned to Zodiac’s owners Thursday. Tokajer said the victim acted within the law in shooting Hughes with the stun gun, but the matter will still be turned over to the state attorney’s office for review.
Taser stun guns are legal in Florida and the fact that the victim was trying to recover his property gave him the right to fire on Hughes, Tokajer said.
“He also indicated he thought the suspect was going to turn around and try to fight him,” Tokajer said.
Taser stun guns are treated by law differently than weapons that can inflict deadly wounds, according to Tokajer. He said with deadly force, a person must be able to prove that he or she felt their life was in danger before using a knife or gun.
“If someone comes in a store and points a gun at someone it might be OK with us for someone to defend themselves with deadly force,” Tokajer said. “But if a gunman has already left and is running away it is probably not going to be OK with us if a store owner shoots that person in the back.”