Soap Box:  Loud Music Shooting

February 19, 2014

Itís been dubbed the ďloud musicĒ trial.  Michael Dunn was charged with 1st degree murder for the killing of Jordan Davis.  Davis was one of four black teens in an SUV parked at a convenient store.  They had their music blasting, such that it was rattling windows, etc.  Dunn pulled up next to them in his sedan, while his fiancťe went into the store.  Dunn asked the teens to turn down their music, an argument ensued, and Dunn pulled his gun and fired 10 shots at the SUV, killing Davis.  Dunn fled the scene and when arrested later he said he feared for his life, was threatened, and saw the barrel of a gun.  No gun was found.  Dunn was convicted on Feb. 15, 2014 of three counts of attempted murder based on the three other teens being in the car, but the jury deadlocked on the murder charge for some reason.  And despite the false allegations from the likes of talk show hosts like Nancy Grace, who dance with glee when tragedy strikes because it gives them airtime and fame, that Dunn shot because of the loud music, or because the teens were black, the facts of the case show that the Davisí own actions were instrumental in pushing Dunn to shoot.

First of all Dunn did NOT start the argument.  He simply and calmly asked them to turn down the music.  The other teens in the car confirmed this.   He should be able to do this in a civilized society.  But given our society is inhabited by far from civilized persons, it might not have been the smartest thing.  I certainly would not do it.  At first, the teens complied and turned down the music.  But Davis didnít like that.  He called Dunn racist names, had the music turned back up, and started arguing with Dunn.  So it was Jordan Davis that actually started the confrontation and was the aggressor.  Davis had a big mouth and a bad attitude.  His vehicle companions even testified they tried to roll up the window to get him to stop arguing.  At this point, the events get fuzzy.  Dunn says Davis threatened him, displayed the barrel of a gun, and started to get out of the car.  The friends say that didnít happen.  While he might not have had a gun, or tried to get out of a car, itís very probable that he did threaten Davis while cursing and hurling racial insults.  Rarely would people act as aggressive as Davis was without issuing threats, even it they were empty threats that he didnít intend to act on.

However, Michael Dunnís case was severely hurt by the fact that there wasnít a gun, he never mentioned he thought he saw a gun until after his arrest, and he fled the scene and never contacted police.  I do believe he was angry at what Davis was saying, and probably did feel threatened.  Iím not sure there was a reasonable enough threat though for him to open fire on the SUV.  He fired 10 times, striking the SUV 9 times, even as it pulled away.  Shooting while the vehicle was fleeing was a big no-no.  Video/audio from the store shows that the shots were very, very quick, in three groups, and in rapid fire, similar to what cops do (except for the pausing between the groups).  It does seem excessive.

My analysis of the situation is that Dunn did nothing wrong by asking them to turn down the music.  Maybe not the smartest thing in todayís violent society, but still nothing wrong with it.  We should be able to ask for courtesy without being attacked, either physically or verbally.  The first wrong was committed by Davis by turning the music back up to spite Dunn, then cursing and using racial insults.  I tell people to not talk smack because you never know who youíre dealing with.  Thatís what happened to Davis.  He puffed up and talked smack to the wrong person and got himself killed.  As for Dunn, as soon as Davis started misbehaving he should have moved his car and removed himself from the situation.  Sure, it might have been an insult to his manhood, and in Florida, the ďstand your groundĒ law means you donít have to retreat.  But his manhood and standing his ground shouldnít outweigh doing the smart thing.  He should have moved and not argued back, despite what the law legally allows him to do.  If Iím carrying a firearm Iím going to do everything I can to avoid a confrontation, because you never know what road a confrontation will lead you down.  Even if you do everything right, and are justified in firing your weapon, an unethical District Attorney and ignorant jury might not see it that way.   I find it hard to believe that Dunn is guilty of 1st degree murder.  I think he did hear threats, or at least could interpret what he heard as threats.  Someone yelling and cursing at you is threatening, even if the words themselves donít contain a specific threat.  However, I donít think he saw a weapon, real or imagined.  I believe he added that detail later when he realized that others might deem his shooting to be excessive.   I donít think he was justified in shooting and do think that he was excessive in the number of shots.  So I think heís probably guilty of 2nd degree murder or manslaughter.

The DA has said there is going to be a retrial on the murder charge.  With a new jury only having to focus on that, and given that the DA now can use his testimony from the first trial to highlight contradictions, I think he will be convicted of 1st degree murder the second time around, or 2nd degree murder if that's an option.  The biggest fault for this tragic turn of events lies with Jordan Davis.  Even though heís the one that wound up dead, it was his attitude, lack of courtesy, and arguing that caused this to go down the way it did. This in no ways justifies what Dunn did, but it highlights a need for our society to be more courteous and kind.  When you react negatively to someone, youíre going to get negative stuff back.

Jeff Polston

UPDATE:  July 13, 2016

Michael Dunn was retried and convicted of 1st degree murder on October 1, 2014.  He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

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