Sheriff defends Stand Your Ground law following arrests

Sheriff defends Stand Your Ground law following arrests
AP Photo/Haven Daley

Florida’s Stand Your Ground law has been met with controversy for quite some time. A lot of people don’t really understand what’s covered under the law and what isn’t.

The problem is that a lot of those who don’t understand it like to talk about the law as if they do. That leads to a lot of confusion.

And I can’t help but think that’s part of what happened in this case:

A Florida sheriff is justifying his encouragement of residents to shoot intruders “like grated cheese” after two men were charged with opening fire at a woman who they thought was trying to burglarize their home.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in an interview with the The Orlando Sentinel published Tuesday that he stood by urging his constituents to use lethal force to defend their homes in the wake of Hurricane Ian. Other Florida officials have offered similar advice to residents. But Judd said two of his constituents took it too far.

Two weeks later, Judd announced at an October 17 news conference that Winter Haven resident Gino Colonacosta, 73, and his 15-year-old son Rocky Colonacosta had been charged with attempted murder, accused of firing seven times at a woman parked outside their home.

Sheriff Judd went on to explain that the two didn’t understand the Stand Your Ground law, which is completely accurate.

The law in question makes it so you don’t have to retreat if faced with a threat to your life. What it doesn’t do is allow you to shoot someone who is simply in the wrong place at the wrong time but no threat to you.

This whole thing started because some medication was misdelivered. The two accused then reportedly freaked because their Ring doorbell told them someone was there, so they started hunting the intruder, then saw the victim sitting in her car and opened fire.

Thankfully, they missed her.

Look, people, here’s how it goes. If someone illegally enters your home when you’re there, that’s usually a safe use of the Stand Your Ground law. If someone threatens you with a weapon, that falls under it, too.

What doesn’t, however, is freaking out because your doorbell tells you someone is outside, so you start blasting the first person you see.

Further, someone sitting in their car and doing nothing is. Not. A. Threat.

If they’re trying to run over you? Sure. If they’re just sitting there? Nope.

Can it be suspicious? Absolutely, especially if they just sit there. After all, they might be casing your house or another for robbery. If they’re just hanging there, call the police and let them investigate.

But they could also be a private investigator checking out one of your neighbors. They could be stopped to make a phone call or check their phone for something. They might be waiting for someone and just got the address wrong.

There are a thousand good, lawful reasons to sit in your car outside of a home. None of them warrant shooting at the driver and trying to use a Stand Your Ground defense.

“I’m scared” or, “I thought they were up to no good” isn’t covered under the law. It’s not about your impressions of the situation so much as what any reasonable person would believe.

No one is going to look at this situation and assume that the person in the car means anyone harm based on the facts as we know them.

Florida’s Stand Your Ground law isn’t to blame for this. People not understanding the law is, though.