The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell, 11/29/12, 7:00 PM ET

Rewriting Florida teen's tragic death

Another case is bringing Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law under scrutiny. A 17-year-old African-American teenager was killed by a 45-year-old white man at a...

O’Donnell rewrites Jordan Davis’ death

Updated
By msnbc staff

Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law has returned to the center of national controversy after an unarmed African-American teenager was shot and killed in Jacksonville, Florida.

Jordan Russell Davis, 17, was gunned down by Michael Dunn, a 45-year old Florida man whose lawyer is now invoking the controversial “Stand Your Ground” law after he fired eight shots at an SUV occupied by Davis and his friends. Dunn told police he left his son’s wedding, where he admitted to having only a couple of drinks. Dunn reportedly confronted the teenagers because they were playing loud music in the parking lot of a convenience store and he then asked them to turn the music down. Jordan Davis and his three friends did not turn the music down. Dunn’s story, as told through his lawyer, is that he thought he saw a shotgun in the car and felt his life was threatened. Dunn’s lawyer says he fired several rounds and two bullets hit Davis who was sitting in the middle of the back seat.

After shots were fired, Dunn quickly fled the scene. Police found him 173 miles away from the shooting and arrested him the next day. On Wednesday, Dunn was formally charged with murder in the second degree of Jordan Davis and the attempted murder of the other kids in the car.

Local reports say Michael Dunn is an avid collector of guns and frequently visits a local shooting range near his Florida home. In an interview with WJXT-TV, Dunn’s lawyer, Robin Lemonidis, recounted Dunn’s account of the scene, saying Dunn felt “threatened” by the kids who were blasting loud music, blaming his fear on the lyrics of the music.

“Uh, ‘Kill that mother (expletive),’ ‘That mother (expletive) is dead,’ ‘You dead (expletive),’” Lemonidis said Dunn heard from the teens. “And he sees that much of a shotgun coming up over the rim of the SUV, which is up higher than his Jetta, and all he sees are heavily tinted front windows that are up and the back windows that are down, and the car has at least four black men in it, and he doesn’t know how old anyone is, and he doesn’t know anything, but he knows a shotgun when he sees one because he got his first gun as a gift from his grandparents when he was in third grade.”


msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell, who initially heard this story from a flight attendant who plans to attend Jordan Davis’ funeral and burial this Saturday, made the story the topic of The Last Word Rewrite segment on Thursday.

“It’s safe to say this guy and Jordan Davis had different tastes in music. Michael Dunn decided he had the authority to tell the kids to turn down the volume. The kids did what most kids would do and what I certainly would have done under the circumstances–nothing. They didn’t turn down the volume for the suddenly self-appointed volume cop of Jacksonville, Florida. So, Michael Dunn, who was waiting, I think we can say impatiently, for his girlfriend to return to the car with some more wine–took out his handgun and started shooting. He fired eight bullets at the four kids in the car. Like most amateur cops, he completely missed his target with six of those bullets. The other two hit Jordan who was sitting in the middle of the back seat. Michael Dunn didn’t behave in a very cop-like way after that. He immediately fled the scene. The kids quickly piled out of their car realizing they weren’t injured, and looked back to see Jordan slumped alone in the back seat.”


Dunn’s lawyer responded to the charges by claiming that he acted “responsibly and in self-defense.”  This claim of self-defense is part of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law and is the same claim used by George Zimmerman, the man accused of murdering 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman employed this defense after he shot and killed Martin in February of this year. This incident might rekindle the public outrage surrounding Florida’s gun laws. Debate about incidents involving “Stand Your Ground,” such as Davis’s death, has the state reevaluating the law’s standing.

O’Donnell is waiting to hear more from Dunn and his lawyer, expecting that their version of Dunn’s story will increasingly include arguments supporting a  ”Stand Your Ground” defense.

“His lawyer told reporters yesterday that she is considering using Florida’s ‘Stand your ground’ law as a defense. And of course, his lawyer knows that the law doesn’t say you can stand your ground against loud music and shoot and kill kids who refuse to turn down the volume.  So now that Michael Dunn has a lawyer, he now has a story. And his story is, as told through his lawyer, that he thought he saw a shotgun in the car and felt his life was threatened. But he didn’t feel his life was threatened enough to call the police after being in a shoot-out with dangerous kids who had a shotgun and were still on the loose, according to his story, a story that he and his lawyer will surely be rewriting as they approach trial. The police say the kids did not have a gun.”

O'Donnell rewrites Jordan Davis' death

Updated