"Stand Your Ground" Doesn't Apply If You Leave And Come Back

David Duprey

A Florida man is learning this lesson the hard way, though honestly, things could be much worse for Christopher Luis. Back on February 13th, the 24-year old pulled up to an ATM at a local bank and was the victim of an attempted armed robbery. Three teens targeted Luis that night, including 16-year old Nimikae Clarke, who’d recently been released from a juvenile detention facility after almost two years behind bars.

Surveillance footage shows Clarke approaching the driver’s side window of Luis’ truck, while 17-year old D’Angelo Davis walked up towards the passenger side. Both Clarke and Davis fire at Luis, who returns fire with his own gun; striking Clarke and sending him to the pavement.

As Clarke’s criminal compatriots ran off into the night, Luis hopped out of his truck, grabbed Clarke’s gun, and sped away. Considering the fact that he’d been shot twice, Luis should have headed straight for the hospital. If he’d done so, that’s where the story would have ended, given that he was entirely justified in defending himself. Unfortunately for everybody involved, instead of immediately attending to the gunshot wounds to his left bicep and right hand, Luis turned his truck around and returned to the scene of the crime.

The videos from the bank’s surveillance cameras show Luis returned to the bank’s drive-thru area about four minutes later after foiling the attempted robbery, police said. Without getting out of his truck, he used Nimikae’s gun to shoot him again, police said.

“[Luis] drove into the drive-thru ATM lane again, without stopping, and observed [Nimikae] as he remained incapacitated on the ground. [Nimikae’s] hands were visible, and he was not in possession of any weapon. [Nimikae] was alive,” Detective Zubair Khan said, according to the arrest warrant.

As Luis fired the weapon at least 10 more times, he was on the phone reporting he was being shot at by assailants, according to the arrest warrant.

Under “Stand Your Ground” laws, you have the right to meet force with force and don’t have to attempt to retreat if you’re in danger of great bodily harm or imminent death. You don’t have the right, however, to come back and fire more shots at your attacker after you’ve successfully defended yourself and gotten away. So now Christopher Luis is facing charges, though not the charges you might expect.

In a statement released Thursday, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office said forensic medical evidence and doctors who performed an autopsy on Clarke determined he received two fatal gunshot wounds during the initial shooting, before Luis returned.

“When he arrived the second time, Luis shot at Clark multiple times, injuring him. However, none of the shots were fatal,” the state attorney’s statement read. “Consequently, Christopher Luis is charged with Aggravated Battery with a Firearm (a second degree felony) and not murder or manslaughter because Luis was legally justified in using his firearm during the first incident under Florida’s self-defense and Stand Your Ground laws.”

Because Luis used two different firearms, forensic investigators were able to determine when the fatal shots were actually fired. The odd decision to grab Clarke’s pistol before driving away ended up sparing him a murder trial, but Luis’ even more inexplicable decision to return to the ATM minutes later means he could be looking at 15 years in prison if convicted on the aggravated battery charges.

I realize that, having been shot twice, perhaps Luis was not in the most calm and collected of mindsets and wasn’t thinking clearly when he came back. Turning around and returning to the ATM, and then shooting Clarke ten more times as he lay on the ground unarmed, on the other hand, is going to be really hard to explain away as the result of the stress and trauma he suffered as a result of the robbery. If I were Luis’ defense attorney that’s still the argument I’d make, but if I were on the jury I don’t know that I’d buy it.