ARCHIVES: Murder charges dropped in Palmetto shooting

MANATEE -- Murder charges will not be filed against Tavarious China Smith in connection to a fatal shooting outside Club Elite in Palmetto, according to the office of State Attorney Earl Moreland.

Smith acted in self defense Dec. 19 when 23-year-old Breon Mitchell was killed from a gunshot wound to the torso, the State Attorney’s Office has determined. Instead, Smith, 28, will face a charge of possession of a firearm by a felon.

“The State Attorney’s Office is following case law and we respectfully understand their decision,” said Palmetto Police Chief Rick Wells. “He is a convicted felon and therefore he is not allowed to carry a gun. He had in his possession a stolen firearm that he used during the shootout.”

The shooting occurred at about 2:30 a.m. when Mitchell approached Smith as he was putting on a ski mask, according to reports. Smith asked him why he was wearing a mask and, if he was going to kill him, to just do it. That’s when Mitchell took out a firearm and shot at Smith several times in the arm, reports state.

Smith, a convicted drug dealer, fired back twice before the men ran on opposite sides of the street, according to reports; Smith then fired two more shots at Mitchell, one of which killed him.

“Yes, I should have went back in the club, but yes, I shot at him,” Smith said in an interview with detectives. “I shot two times, got some more room and shot two more times.”

According to the State Attorney’s Office, Smith said he knew prior to going to Club Elite that Williams’ associates were out to get him and that Smith had his friend drive him to the hospital in Sarasota instead of one closer because Williams’ associates could be there waiting for him.

Jovan Waiters, a friend of Smith who drove him to the hospital, told the Herald that Smith wasn’t looking for a fight when he went out that night.

“The totality of the facts in this case indicates that Mitchell, having given Smith false assurance and masked himself, attempted to commit the premeditated murder of Smith. Mitchell fired at Smith first,” according to a statement from the State Attorney’s Office. “Mitchell exhausted all his ammunition in trying to kill Smith, while Smith, after shooting Mitchell and eliminating the threat, did not fire his last round at Mitchell.”

This isn’t the first time Smith has killed someone.

According to Herald archives, Smith shot and killed Mitchell’s brother Nikita Williams in a February 2008 incident ruled self defense by prosecutors.