In what appears to be a strange and particularly unprovoked incident, a Broward County man with a lengthy record is facing charges of aggravated battery and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon after allegedly shooting a man who was volunteering his time to protect sea turtle nests on the beach in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.
The alleged shooting victim, a 72 year-old Vietnam veteran and his 64 year-old friend, belong to a group that helps protect sea turtle nesting sites on beaches in Broward County.
The accused, whose lengthy record includes arrests for drug offenses and violent crimes, allegedly walked up to the two men and began harassing them. The accused physically attacked the 64 year-old, who sustained a laceration on his forehead.
When the 72 year-old drew his handgun, for which he held a valid Florida concealed carry permit, the accused wrestled the gun out of the victim’s hand and struck the victim on the head with the weapon. Then the accused shot the victim in the hip as the victim lay on the sand.
The accused has been charged with two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, once for striking the victim on the head with the weapon, and again for discharging the firearm. Discharging a firearm triggers a twenty-year mandatory minimum sentence under Florida’s 10-20-Life law. The accused also faces an additional count of battery on a person 65 or older and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, which carries a three-year mandatory minimum.
A note on sentencing - in Florida, mandatory sentences cannot be “stacked.” That is, mandatory terms cannot run consecutively. In this case, the highest mandatory term will apply, which will be twenty years.
The accused remains in the Broward Main Jail on a $20,000 bond.
Eric Matheny is a Broward criminal attorney and Miami criminal attorney.