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Black teen's shooting revives 'Stand Your Ground' debate

On Friday night, gun collector Michael David Dunn pulled his sedan up next to the SUV in which the unarmed 17-year-old Jordan Davis sat with his three friends a
Jordan Davis, in a photo from his Facebook page. (via Global Grind)
Jordan Davis, in a photo from his Facebook page.

On Friday night, gun collector Michael David Dunn pulled his sedan up next to the SUV in which the unarmed 17-year-old Jordan Davis sat with his three friends at a Jacksonville, Florida, gas station. Dunn, 45, allegedly asked them to turn down their loud music. According to the Orlando Sentinel, that provoked an argument with Jordan and his friends:

Jordan and Dunn exchanged words, and Dunn pulled a gun and shot eight or nine times, striking Jordan twice, [Jacksonville sheriff's Lt. Rob] Schoonover said. Jordan was sitting in the back seat. No one else was hurt.

Jordan died that night in his friend's arms. Jordan's father, Ron, later called Dunn a "coward" for shooting at the teens. Advancement Project co-director Judith Browne Dianis (a frequent Melissa Harris-Perry guest) went further in a statement sent to us today:

"We can't wait until another Black child is killed in Florida before the state sees the fallacy of Stand Your Ground. This law is not about self-defense. It is a criminal protection law. It not only sanctions killing a person at will if one feels threatened, but it reflects racial biases in how it is evoked and enforced. It's no surprise that the most high-profile cases surrounding the law both involve Black teenage boys who appeared 'threatening' to their assailants. It's bad public policy that must be repealed now."

For her part, Jordan's mother told our NBC affiliate in Jacksonville that she doesn't want his death labeled a hate crime. Racial intent or not, the case parallels the February shooting death of Trayvon Martin in a number of ways: an unarmed Florida teenager who appeared to be minding his own business was interrupted by an older man with a gun, and was later shot and killed. Dunn was charged immediately upon his Saturday arrest with murder and attempted murder, unlike George Zimmerman in the Martin case.

But as with Zimmerman's case, it appears Dunn will claim protection under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law. His attorney told the Florida Times-Union that Dunn feared for his safety:

Robin Lemonidis of Melbourne said Tuesday night that someone in the red sport-utility vehicle that was next to her client’s car pulled a shotgun on him and that he fired in self defense. “He acted the way any responsible firearms owner would act in a similar situation because a shotgun was aimed at him,” she said.Jacksonville police said no weapon was found in the car. “How hard did they look,” Lemonidis said. “Have they done an entire search?”

Lemonidis tried to explain her contention in an interview with WJXT-TV, telling them that "it certainly would not have been in the vehicle when they looked unless they had stopped it immediately, which I doubt they did." In the absence of this supposed weapon, however, Dunn's attorney explained why her client felt "threatened" by three kids blasting loud 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."

Dunn pleaded not guilty in court today.  It will be compelling to see how the "got his first gun in the third grade" defense plays out in court. We'll be following this story closely.

See below the coverage offered tonight by our colleagues at Politics Nation with Al Sharpton. Their digital producer, Morgan Whitaker, contributed to this post.