February 26, 2015: No Charges to be filed

Bad news for responsible Florida recreational shooters.    Keith Morelli’s article in the Wednesday Tampa Tribune reports the Florida State Attorney’s Office will not file charges against Scott Radford, Paul Adee or any of their friends who were shooting with them on the morning of January 24th.    Their conclusion: not enough evidence to determine which one of the shooters fired the rounds that struck the house, no charges will be filed.  Take away from this under current law; when you don’t have the knowledge, skills or attitude to shoot responsibility, make sure you are not the only shooter. 

I will be curious to see if Scott Radford or Paul Adee or any of the others who were with them, ever individually, or as a group make restitution to Dawn Bryan for the physical and emotional damage that they caused. 

The quoted statements in several of the articles that appeared in the Tampa Tribune make it apparent that Radford and Adee were not familiar with the power and ballistics of all of the guns that they were shooting.  It is probably their lack of knowledge that led to the errant shots.  Whether the shots that struck the house were fired by Radford or someone else in the group, they were fired from Radfords property and the shooters with him had permission to be there and participated. 

If the Hillsborough County Sherriff’s Office (HCSO) determined that the bullets that struck Dawn Bryan’s home were from an AK-47, the violator(s) of Florida Statute 790.15 are in the group who fired the AK-47 that was used that morning.  The inability of the HCSO to determine who fired the shots that struck the house is the reason no charges are being filed. 

This is bad news because incidents like this one and the death of Bruce Flemming in Deltona on Christmas Day 2013, are what fuels attempts to change laws governing the ability of Floridians to shoot recreationally outdoors. 

I propose the person or group of persons, that were present on Mr. Radford’s property and who fired the AK-47 are liable for the infraction of Florida Statute 790.15 and for the damages caused by their stray bullets.  All of them should be charged under one count.  Ultimately it is the land owner who gave permission for the shooting to occur on his land that should be held responsible if no other determination can be made.

But that’s not how the statute is currently written.  But if it were, then Mr. Radford could be charged with the violation because it was determined by HCSO that the shots came from his property.  A charge with a conviction would then become a deterrent to backyard shooters in Florida to be responsible for their own shots as well as everyone that they give permission to be on their property AND they gave permission to fire a shot. 

The possibility of a conviction of a first degree misdemeanor and the resulting maximum $1,000 fine would act as a determent to shooters who may not have the knowledge skills and attitude to shoot safely.  I don’t think in this case the potential 1 year jail sentence would be called for since their attempt to shoot at a berm elevates them from the worst possible offenders. 

Hillsborough County Sherriff’s Office says the case in not public record yet.  But this situation is sounding like a game of pickup basketball.  No Blood, No Foul. 

I completely disagree with Sheriff’s spokeswoman Debbie Carter who stated: “No laws were broken, so there was no action taken.”  Well the second part of her statement is true, no action was taken.  The part about no laws being broken is completely wrong.  Florida Statute 790.15 was violated because bullets crossed property lines and struck an occupied dwelling.  What Debbie Carter should have said is that the Hillsborough County Sherriff’s Office could not determine which one of the shooters fired the shots that hit Dawn Bryan’s home, current laws apply to individuals, so no action was taken. 

Take some action and write to your Florida legislator.

Dear Representative Richard Corcoran,

I am writing to urge you to propose a change in Florida Statute 790.15 that would enable a group of persons to be charged when an individual cannot be determined in the event of bullets crossing property lines.   This request is in response to reports the Florida State Attorney’s Office announcing that no charges are going to be filed against Scott Radford, Paul Adee, or any of their friends who were shooting together on the morning of January 24th on Mr. Radford’s property when bullets struck the home of Dawn Bryan.  The reason given for no charges being filed is that the Hillsborough County Sherriff’s Office could not determine which individual fired the shots that hit the house that Dawn Bryan and her daughter were in.

Florida Statute 790.15 states “any person”.  That should be changed to: “any person or group of persons or land owner” so that the group could be charged when an individual determination cannot be made. These changes to define the responsibility of the person, group, or the land owner who gives permission will allow law enforcement and the judicial system to hold individuals or groups of individual accountable when shooting results in stray bullets that do damage to other’s property or cause personal injury or death.   

This will increase the burden on the shooters to be responsible because the individual does not need to be identified.  This type of change should have the desired effect of making recreational shooters more cautious, more discerning, and more apt to apply the safety rule of knowing your target and what is beyond. 

If the land owner is not present and denies having given permission, then the individual or group can also be charged with trespass.

Taking this situation as a future example, application of the change would enable the HCSO to charge everyone who fired the AK-47 that morning as a group.  Individual integrity will still be a problem when investigators are determining who the possible shooters are but they will at least be able to define a pool of suspects who were present and make them all partially responsible for the fine if a conviction is made.  In this case the maximum $1,000 fine would be collected from the group, if the group could not agree on the individual that acted in a negligent manner.  In this case I don’t think the possible jail time of 1 year would be called for because they were shooting at a berm which raises them above the worst possible offenders.  But in cases where jail time was warranted it could also be split among the members of the group.

Thank you for your consideration. – Greg Poole

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