The evening of February 27, 2008, in the Miami area, Gabriel Mobley and a friend were viciously attacked by two men. Using his licensed concealed carry pistol, Mr. Mobley successfully fought off the attack, killing both of the aggressors. He was charged with two counts of second degree murder – murder which, under Florida law, requires “malice”.
Mobley exercised his rights under Florida’s self-defense immunity state, 776.032 Immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force, to avoid going to trial on the basis that it was more likely than not, based on the evidence, that he acted in lawful self-defense.
The trial judge, Thomas Rebull, refused to dismiss the charges. He claimed that Mobley’s testimony was not credible, and that Mobley’s deadly force was “neither reasonable or necessary.” Mobley appealed.
On Thursday, the Florida appellate court hearing the matter ruled by 2-1 that the evidence supported Mobley’s request for self-defense immunity. (The State prosecutors say they intend to appeal that ruling.)
The appellate ruling published Thursday in support of Mobley recounted the facts of the case as follows:
Mobley was invited by Chico to join him and his staff at a local Chili’s to unwind. Mobley agreed to join them but drove his own car intending to go home from the restaurant. When Mobley arrived at the restaurant, he removed the handgun that he was carrying and stowed the gun in the glove compartment of his car. He did so because he believed from the training that he had received to secure a concealed carry license that firearms could not be brought into any establishment where food and alcohol are served. By the time Mobley got to the restaurant, a number of Chico’s female employees had arrived and were sitting at a booth located near one end of the restaurant’s bar.
[T]hings changed after Mobley and Chico went outside a second time for a smoke. This time when they reentered the restaurant, they found two men, later identified as Jason Gonzalez and Rolando (Roly) Carranza, talking to Chico’s female employees. According to Chico, the women seemed to be uncomfortable so he told the men to leave. This sparked a verbal altercation between Chico and the two men which continued until the two men returned to their table at the other end of the bar. The altercation, which lasted only a few minutes, was loud enough to attract the attention of the restaurant’s security guard and its manager, who asked the guard to keep an eye on Jason and Roly.
Mobley was not involved in the argument but acted as peacemaker instead, going to Jason’s and Roly’s table to ask them to forget what he described as a petty misunderstanding. He even shook Jason’s hand and gave him a friendly pat on the
Although the altercation appeared to have ended, Mobley testified that he began to feel uncomfortable after he noticed Roly staring in the direction of Chico’s party with a “mean, cold [look] on his face.” He decided it was time to leave. But before he left, he and Chico went to the restroom where he expressed his concerns to his friend. As Mobley and Chico were returning from the bathroom, they passed the front of the restaurant where Mobley saw Jason, with Roly nearby, banging aggressively on the restaurant’s window and pointing toward them. When Mobley and Chico reached their seats, Mobley suggested that after Jason and Roly left, they should all go home. Approximately ten to fifteen minutes later, after Jason and Roly appeared to have left, Mobley left the restaurant alone while Chico settled the check.
The events that transpired next were captured on a security camera recording made outside the restaurant, and, for the most part, are beyond dispute. The recording shows that at 23:52:15, Mobley, wearing only a sleeveless tee shirt, exited the Chili’s front door and went to his vehicle parked only feet away, but mostly outside the security camera’s viewing range. There, Mobley, as subsequent footage confirms, donned a sweat shirt, because, according to Mobley, it was chilly that night. He also retrieved his gun and put it in a holster that he wore around his waist. Less than a minute after Mobley left the restaurant, Chico and the third man in their party exited the front door. Chico was joined by Mobley who walked with Chico to his nearby car. There the two remained for approximately thirty seconds until, at 23:53:38, Mobley stepped onto the sidewalk near the front fender of Chico’s car. Approximately twenty seconds later, Chico joined him on the sidewalk where the two smoked a cigarette.
Four seconds after Chico joined Mobley on the sidewalk, Jason Gonzalez can be seen rapidly approaching from Mobley’s and Chico’s right. Four seconds after that, Jason delivered a vicious punch to Chico’s face which fractured Chico’s eye socket. Jason then can be seen to dance backward, hands raised in a fighter’s pose, and within four seconds of landing the punch on Chico advance forward toward Mobley. Mobley reacted by raising his arm and hand to ward Jason off.
Two seconds later, as Jason steps back from Mobley, Roly can be seen rushing up from the rear of the restaurant to join Jason in what Mobley testified he believed to be a renewed attack on both himself and Chico. At this juncture, as Roly neared Jason, who was only feet from both Mobley and Chico, Mobley testified that he saw Roly reach under his long, baggy shirt. Believing that Roly was reaching for a weapon to use in an attack, Mobley drew his gun and shot at Roly hitting both Roly and Jason.
This entire series of events, from the time Jason first comes into view on the sidewalk until the first shot was fired, took only twelve seconds. After being shot, Jason turned and fled toward his (or Roly’s) car to collapse with a gunshot wound to the chest and die. Roly, hit four times, fell to the ground near the restaurant’s door where he was assisted by the third man in their party who had been sitting at the bar. Roly later died at a local hospital. Although no weapons were found on Roly’s body, two knives were found on the ground near where he fell.
Some facets of these facts are worth emphasizing.
- Most relevant for the purposes of the self-defense immunity ruling, is that it was the “victims,” Roly and Jason, who initiated the physical confrontation, and as such were the aggressors.
- It seems that Florida’s Stand-Your-Ground law has little application in this case, despite the idiotic insistence of journalists to emphasize the phrase at every turn. The entire fight took a mere 12 seconds, with only 4 seconds passing between Jason appearing on the security footage and his striking of a blow that broke the eye-socket of his victim, Chico – indisputably grave bodily harm. The opportunities for safe retreat from two attackers intent on committing a vicious aggravated assault seem few.
- Least relevant from a self-defense immunity perspective but of interest from a tactical perspective, is that once Mobley made the decision to engage in lawful self-defense, he used as much force as necessary to secure safety for himself and his friends also under attack. Jason was mortally wounded with the first shot. Roly was struck four times, apparently dispossessing himself of his two weapons – knives – moments before he lost consciousness. From the moment Mobley engaged in self-defense, no innocent party was further injured. That’s good self-defense gun work, by anybody’s standard.
Also noteworthy are the many ways in which Mobley was able to reinforce his compelling narrative of innocence, by managing to introduce considerable “consciousness of innocence” evidence into the narrative.
- He did not carry his lawfully licensed firearm into the Chili’s, because alcohol was served there, and Florida (purportedly) prohibits CCW in establishments that serve alcohol. He armed himself only after having left the establishment.
- He did not initiate, continue, or escalate the conflict – indeed, he played the role of a peacemaker.
- He had a sufficiently clean background that he was able to personally testify in support of his claim of self-defense without fear of being devastated on cross examination. In contrast, George Zimmerman elected not to testify at trial
In short, Mobley was able to present a sufficiently compelling narrative of innocence that a majority of the appellate court felt compelled to grant his request for self-defense immunity.
Finally, as it happens, Mobley is black.
In contrast, his attackers were hispanic (white-hispanic?).
This would seem to eliminate the opportunity for for-profit racial activism that so marked the Zimmerman case. (Unless those activists can successfully argue that Mobley is “white-black”, I suppose.)
For those of you interested in reading the entire appellate court decision, here you go:
Have a great weekend!
(Featured image credit: NBCMiami.com video)
Andrew F. Branca is an MA lawyer and the author of the seminal book “The Law of Self Defense, 2nd Edition,” available at the Law of Self Defense blog, Amazon.com (paperback and Kindle), Barnes & Noble (paperback and Nook), and elsewhere.