No homicide charges will be filed against a 17-year-old teen who fatally shot a community choir director in the face with an illegal gun, prosecutors said Tuesday. The shooting is considered justified under Florida's stand-your-ground law because the 40-year-old victim, Julius Jerome Jacobs, was carrying a large stick.
The state attorney’s office in Marion Country said that, although Tyrone Pierson possessed the gun illegally and although his friend managed to escape the same confrontation by fleeing the scene, Pierson is protected under SYG. He was therefore not under any obligation to attempt to retreat before using deadly force.
Jacobs’ family is unhappy with the decision.
"He's getting away with murder," said Jacobs’ cousin, Lateria Myhand.
Myhand and another cousin, Rashundra Grimsley-Robinson, said the father of five was a not a violent person.
"It isn't fair to just shoot him in the face like that," Grimsley-Robinson said. "How does a 17 year old get a gun? I could understand if he had a stick. It wasn't a fair fight. If there was any time to pray, it's now."
Two of Pierson’s friends who witnessed the July 5 incident said they were walking down the street when Jacobs, driving at high speed “almost hit” them with his SUV. Pierson yelled at Jacobs, who slowed down and had a “hostile exchange” with Pierson.
The teens say Jacobs then pulled over into a driveway and spoke to someone. They assumed it was a drug exchange.
The teens continued on their walk, when Jacobs later drove up to them again, got out of his SUV, and swung a heavy stick in their direction. He allegedly yelled at Pierson.
One of the teens ran away. Pierson confronted Jacobs and shot him.
In a memo published by ThinkProgress, the prosecutors teased out how in another state Pierson would have had a duty to retreat.
“Under traditional self-defense rules, Mr. Pierson may have been required to retreat as Mr. Smith and Mr. Crim were able to safely do. Given the other two people with Mr. Pierson avoided the conflict by fleeing, it is not unreasonable to assume Mr. Pierson could have done also,” the memo said. “However, in 2005, the Florida Legislature substantially amended chapter 776, Florida Statutes, by a series of enactments collectively known as the stand-your-ground Law.”
Prosecutors said they will charge Pierson with two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm and evidence tampering – he initially lied about the location of the gun.