Judges Free Man Who Shot Deputy, Cite 'Stand Your Ground' Law

Holly Matkin

Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said that the appellate court's decision will put lives at risk.

Daytona Beach, FL – A man who tried to kill three Brevard County Sheriff’s deputies in 2015 has been allowed to walk free under Florida’s “stand your ground” law.

Brevard County Sheriff’s Deputy Casey Smith was shot in the lower abdomen during the incident, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.

He nearly died of his wounds, and remained off-duty for a year, according to WESH.

Deputy Smith was ultimately medically retired from the sheriff’s office due to his injuries, Florida Today reported.

The shooter, 60-year-old John DeRossett, was charged with attempted first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer while discharging a firearm, the Associated Press reported.

On April 15, the Fifth District Court of Appeals dismissed all charges against him, citing the state’s “stand your ground” law.

“The appellate decision is better than a jury acquittal,” the gunman’s attorney, Michael Panella, told The Daytona Beach News-Journal. “An acquittal only means ‘not guilty.’ This order means that John is innocent, that his actions were justified, and that he never should have been arrested in the first place.”

“It’s a total vindication,” Panella declared.

The shooter also praised the appellate court’s decision, and said that people don’t understand how it feels to be him.

“Thank God. Thank Jesus. Thank everybody. Thank you,” DeRossett told Florida Today. “You just don’t know how it feels, you know? I’m trying to hold the tears back.”

Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said he is “in no way, shape, or form pleased with this ruling” during a press conference one day after the court’s decision was handed down.

“I do respect the judges' ruling in this case. I don't agree with it in any capacity. I want to be very clear,” Sheriff Ivey said.

The shooting occurred on Aug. 20, 2015, when three undercover deputies traveled to DeRossett’s home with the intent of arresting his niece, 47-year-old Mary Ellis “The Cougar” DeRossett, on a charge of prostitution, Florida Today reported.

According to court records, she had been meeting with “clients” in her bedroom at the home she shared with DeRossett – a fact prosecutors said DeRossett was well aware of.

The deputies met the female suspect at the front door and identified themselves, Deputy Smith later testified.

"[Agent Peter Stead] pulled out his badge and said 'Sheriff's Office!' and grabbed her," Deputy Smith explained. "Then all hell broke loose. He grabbed her out of the door and pulled her toward the yard, and she started screaming very loudly."

Panella told the court that DeRossett opened fire when he heard his niece screaming, and claimed that he had no idea they were deputies, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.

DeRossett said he believed the people at the door were trying to kidnap her, according to WESH.

The gunman spent nearly five years in jail before he was released on bond in March, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported.

The appellate court ruled that the shooter was entitled to protect his home against the perceived threat under the state’s “stand your ground” law, and that prosecutors failed to prove DeRossett knew the men at the door were law enforcement officers, according to WESH.

“Our law enforcement officers risk their lives daily to protect our community,” the state’s attorney’s office said in a statement after the decision, according to The Daytona Beach News-Journal. “This ruling adds to that risk by extending protection to those who turn a blind eye to criminal activity, even within their own home.”

Sheriff Ivey said that DeRossett was absolutely aware that the men at his door that day were law enforcement officers, Florida Today reported.

“[He] knew exactly what he was doing, and he knew exactly what was going on inside that house,” the sheriff insisted.

He said that Deputy Smith was victimized not only by the gunman, but also by the court.

"[Deputy Smith is] a true, true victim, not only in this case, but in this ruling because Casey's life was completely changed by this individual's actions. His career was changed. His life was changed. His family's life was changed,” Sheriff Ivey told Florida Today.

The now-former deputy said he was very disappointed to learn that the man who attempted to kill him has gotten away with it.

“Casey is disappointed. But Casey is glad to be alive, glad to be able to spend time with his family. And, from our perspective, we feel the same exact way,” Sheriff Ivey said.

The sheriff said he believes it was the judges' decision, not the actual “stand your ground” statute that is flawed, and he remains “a huge supporter” of the law, Florida Today reported.

“I don't think this a fault with the statute,” he said. “I think this is a fault with the judges not applying all of the evidence in this case."

“[This decision] has, quite frankly, put lives at risk, because there will be others that will use this ruling to their advantage,” Sheriff Ivey added.

Comments (25)
No. 1-15
Trueferblue
Trueferblue

Since I live in Florida, I can attest to the fact their ARE some bad players in some of these jurisdictions and it goes higher than the officers.

Neilmac99
Neilmac99

Clearly this is ridiculous, that someone can shoot a police officer and get off.

No buts.

However there is an underlying problem with a law that uses prostitution as a reason for a violent arrest. Police officers shouldn’t be put in this position by legislation.

sbuckner021
sbuckner021

i’m pro-cop... but that doesn’t make me anti-citizen. we’d all agree cops aren’t perfect. they get a grain of salt about damn near every time with me. i’ve read about this case. the only injustice here is DeRossett having 5 years of his life taken from him until the court decided to right their wrong. he fired his initial warning shot, in an attempt to dissuade the unidentified threat from potentially killing his niece - of whom DeRossett selflessly took in, to help. the cops overreached. fortunately, no life was expended and hopefully the injured officer will make a full recovery.

Burgers Allday
Burgers Allday

#badannouncement #uniformsmakearrests

Winston-Ten 7
Winston-Ten 7

I live in Florida. Pro Cop. But dead of night not in uniform no badges visible for a sting gone way wrong. Judges made the correct decision.

Lbw654
Lbw654

Pro cop 90% of the time but all the articles I’ve read on this definitely sound like sting gone wrong. It states the officer C. Smith was posing as a potential client as well as two deputies not associated with the sting were clients of the pro . Just a shitty situation and a sting gone really wrong sad all the way around..

cspcapt
cspcapt

there is a similar situation in Ct. Years ago the FBI and Stae police went to arrest a mafia figure on a federal warrant, but no one was in uniform. Suspect saw police in raid jackets and they identified themselves as police. The officers had their weapons out. Suspect said he saw the guns and feared for his life. He fired through the door and struck a State Police trooper. As the trooper lay there a FBI agent ran by and did not help the trooper. Suspect then called 911 to report he was under attack. He was arrested for attempted murder but the courts over turned the verdict. Claimed he was just protecting himself.

LostAllSanity
LostAllSanity

What concerns me is the application of Castle Doctrine to Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law - which seems to have expanded in scope to the right, even obligation, of the homeowner to protect their "Castle" even against LE. That is the way I read it. If so, every LE Agency in Florida should notify residents that the right, and obligation, to protect their "Castle" is now the responsibility of the homeowner and LEO will no longer respond to calls of disturbances, home invasions, etc. Several rulings from Appeal Courts have clearly stated that LEO and LEA do not have a specific obligation to the individual, but rather to the community at-large. If so, refocus their attention on the community at-large and no longer risk the lives of your Officers from those exercising their right under the implied provisions of the Castle Doctrine.

You might rightfully so, argue that I'm stretching the intent of the law but Defendants and the Liberal Courts do this daily. Long past due that LE plays by the same rules.

bryantrent
bryantrent

BS

charlesjandecka
charlesjandecka

Hell, a phony "uniformed" Canadian Royal Police officer killed 18 people recently. The time has come to suspect anyone who projects authoritarianism.

charlesjandecka
charlesjandecka

Back in @ '73 in Tallahassee, FL a teenage troublemaker was tracked to his "lair" off in some wooded area by detectives. It was dark when they burst thru the brush into his tiny camp. Startled he stabbed one of them in the chest. Fortunately the fellow survived. I was a supervisor in the local juvenile detention center when they brought the kid in, and was impressed with how his case worker, a friend of LE, still backed up the kid who, as anyone would do in a similar invasion, protected himself.

Sgt BB
Sgt BB

Mary Ellis “The Cougar” DeRossett. Classic.

rwingjr
rwingjr

The sheriff is wrong here and it appears his cops were as well. Stand your ground law prevents a person from being charged with a crime in the first place. The judges decision didn't use that law in making that decision. I hate that this law is so often misrepresented in the media. This appears to be a case where the police didn't look like police and didn't act as police should and a family member defended his niece. I strongly support the police but when they act inappropriately, they need to be held accountable. Here an innocent man spent years in jail because of their actions.

StevenPF
StevenPF

The Stand Your Ground law ONLY means you don't have to try to flee before using force in SELF DEFENSE. Use of force in your home would fall under the 'Castle Doctrine', NEVER 'Stand Your Ground'.
Even if the appeals court cited the proper law, the MOST they could LEGALLY order is a retrial to determine if he legitimately believed he was acting in defense of his niece.

elrayoex
elrayoex

Note to self: Naver go to arrest someone in plain clothes. Especially for a whore takedown.


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