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Law of Self Defense: “Don’t Mess With the Uber Driver”

Law of Self Defense: “Don’t Mess With the Uber Driver”

Angry boyfriend brings cell phone to gunfight, experiences poor outcome

Around 2:30 AM last Tuesday, a man attacked an Uber driver, saying he had a pistol while raising his cell phone in his right hand. He abruptly discovered that the Uber driver was willing and able to defend himself from a deadly force attack with a lawfully carried handgun.

Now the Uber driver, who coincidentally had just graduated from the local police academy, is being showered with praise by Sheriff Grady Judd of Polk County, Florida, where these events took place.

Kind Stranger Calls Uber for Drunk Woman

The confrontation was at o-dark thirty, and involves inebriation to the point of being unaware of gunfire, so it’s not surprising that the facts are a bit convoluted. The story begins with a female drinking at a bar, who became so intoxicated that a fellow female patron, a kindly stranger, called her an Uber to get her home.

Stranger’s Stalking Boyfriend is Observing Her from Truck

That kindly stranger was being stalked by an angry “on-again off-again” boyfriend. Who mistakenly believed his girlfriend had also entered the Uber car. The angry boyfriend followed the Uber in his own Ford F-250. He was following two strangers, neither of whom had ever met him, thinking he was going after his girlfriend.

Boyfriend Texts That He Plans to Attack Uber Driver

Unbeknownst to either the Uber driver or passenger, the angry boyfriend was threatening to beat the Uber driver in an angry text exchange with his estranged girlfriend, who was back at the bar. These texts would become known to police after the fact, but were unknown to the Uber driver at the time he fired the fatal shot.

Boyfriend Forces Uber to Stop, Threatens to Shoot

As the Uber driver travelled down the road, the F-250 came up close on his bumper with bright lights on, then swerved in front of him, forcing him to a stop. The Uber’s dashcam footage shows the angry boyfriend exiting his F-250, saying something about a pistol, and raising an object in his right hand.

Turns Out Uber Has Own Gun, Uses It

The Uber driver fired a single shot into the angry boyfriend’s chest, causing a mortal injury. When the Uber driver went to kick aside the “gun”, he realized that it was actually a cellphone. Ultimately no gun was found on the angry boyfriend’s person or in his truck, so he was bluffing, and had his bluff called good and hard.

Fact That Boyfriend’s “Gun” Was a Cell Phone is Non-issue

That the Uber driver believed the cell phone was a gun is not damaging to his claim of self-defense, so long as his perception was reasonable. We’re not required to make perfect decisions in self-defense, we’re required to make reasonable decisions in self-defense.

Sheriff: “This is a justified homicide, all day long.”

Polk County Sheriff Judd agrees and gives quite the entertaining press conference on what happened (video below). He says, “this is a justified homicide all day long,” a conclusion aided by a considerable body of evidence, much of which was unknown to the Uber driver at the time, as well as dash cam footage from the Uber driver’s car that showed the angry boyfriend’s threatening behavior. That dash cam footage is also embedded below.

Sheriff: Lesson Here Is “Don’t Mess with the Uber Driver”

Making clear that he has no intention of pressing charges or even making an arrest. the Sheriff says, the lesson is “Don’t mess with the Uber driver.”

Cites This as “Classic Stand-Your-Ground” Case: But, No

Oddly, he repeatedly refers to this incident as a classic Stand-Your-Ground case, which it is not. Events unfold so rapidly that retreat was not safely possible, so there would have been no legal duty to retreat even absent Stand-Your-Ground, making the case unrelated to the Stand-Your-Ground statute.

It IS An Example of the Immunity Law “No Arrest” Provision

I expect the Sheriff is using the phrase “Stand-Your-Ground” to reference self-defense immunity, and particularly the provision that a person who used force in self-defense should not be arrested unless there is probable cause that they have committed a crime.

He’s likely using the phrase to portray the event as clear cut self-defense, and the type of scenario that the legislature had in mind when it passed that “no arrest” provision.

Ironically, Uber’s firearms policy “prohibits riders and their guests, as well as driver and delivery partners, from carrying firearms of any kind while using our app.”

Here are the promised videos.

First, Sheriff Judd’s press conference:

Next, the dash cam footage:

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The unmistakable value of a dashcam. Without context, the defendant is stuck with having just shot an unarmed somebody while the relatives of the deceased go on TV wailing about the angelic nature of their husband/cousin/nephew.

The Friendly Grizzly | September 1, 2018 at 11:11 am

Would this be as open and shit if the Über driver was NOT a police academy grad?

    To ask the question is to answer it.


    It would actually be MORE open and shut if the Uber driver were NOT a recent academy graduate.

    A pesron’s level of training and expertise is applied to the reasonable man standard. The person’s actions are viewed through the lens of a reasonable man, with similar training and experience, in the same circumstances. In this case, because of the lighting conditions, it is very difficult to accurately determine what the object in the truck driver’s right hand is. Also, he stated that he had a gun , twice, as he pointed the object in his right hand at Westlake while approaching him in an aggressive, threatening manner. A reasonable man, of any training and experience level would reasonable assume that an deadly force attack was imminent. He was, therefor justified in using deadly force to repulse the assumed imminent attack.

    Good shooting. The fact that the Uber driver was a recent police academy graduate is irrelevant.

      tom_swift in reply to Mac45. | September 1, 2018 at 12:53 pm

      You give good shots a bad name. Killing an intensely annoying but not outstandingly dangerous man is NEVER “good shooting”.

        Toad-O in reply to tom_swift. | September 1, 2018 at 1:12 pm

        Who says the boyfriend “wasn’t dangerous”? You don’t need a gun to inflict serious injury or death. He was at the very least guilty of assault, and who knows what he would have done afterwards.

        Never looked down the barrel of a firearm when someone was threatening to shoot you, have you? Since when did Americans surrender the right to defend them selves from attack, especially an attack which can reasonably be assumed to be likely to result in death or great bodily harm?

        Rule #1 of any potentially violent encounter: DO NOT claim that you have a deadly weapon and are going to use it against another unless you actually have one.

          SDN in reply to Mac45. | September 1, 2018 at 2:27 pm

          “especially an attack which can reasonably be assumed to be likely to result in death or great bodily harm?”

          You mean like someone struck and knocked to the ground? People are injured or die from things like that every day.

          Mac45 in reply to Mac45. | September 1, 2018 at 4:32 pm

          LOL. Good try. But being knocked to the ground is NOT considered likely to result in death or great bodily harm, unless you are standing on the edge of a roof. Being SHOT, on the other hand IS.

        Sanddog in reply to tom_swift. | September 1, 2018 at 1:44 pm

        From the man’s own words and actions, any sane person would assume their life was in imminent danger. Yeah, it was a good shoot. It’s not the Uber driver’s fault that he was dealing with a complete moron.

        Joe-dallas in reply to tom_swift. | September 1, 2018 at 2:18 pm

        A) He was beyond annoying – He was threating to kill the uber driver, that approaches the definition of dangerous.

        B) The behavioral characteristics of this guy is consistent with someone that has a history of someone with anger managment and jealousy. Very likely to have physically attacked others in the past and very likely to continue physical abuse.

        Voice_of_Reason in reply to tom_swift. | September 2, 2018 at 11:32 am

        tom swift’s post is one of the dumbest i’ve ever read.

        if an enraged strangers forces your car to stop in the dark, claims to have a gun and threatens to shoot you with it, you are not merely being “annoyed”. you are being credibly threatened with death.

I believe we are now at the point where there is enough dash/body-cam footage available to support a Tosh.0-like show. Has anyone noticed how quiet BLM has become now that the facts are making their way into the public domain? It appears that a camera is a more reliable reported than Al Sharpton et al. Hot heads are going to be hot heads. We just have a way of quickly eliminating them from the gene pool.

“goofball” Tears came out at that one. Though I do believe that the Sheriff needs to contain his personal opinions in a news conference, even when they are spot-on correct.

And I quote The Simpsons “Videotaping our crime spree was the smartest thing we ever did.”

    dmi60ex in reply to MajorWood. | September 1, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    Major Wood
    Sorry for the downvote big fingers
    The reason we don’t hear from BLM is because Sessions cut off Obamas slush fund .
    And here we thought Soros was paying ,when in fact it was the good old taxpayers.

      JusticeDelivered in reply to dmi60ex. | September 1, 2018 at 8:08 pm

      Actually, Black Liars Matter were double & triple dipping, but there is no doubt that getting rid of Omana, another liar, cut off some of Black Liars Matter gravy train.

    I’m from Florida and our sheriff can be more colorful then Sheriff Grady. Here we appreciate the personal opinions of ou4 sheriff’s. They say what we are thinking.

    Sheriff Grady won’t be changing his demeanor for anyone.

    Pessimist in reply to MajorWood. | September 3, 2018 at 6:11 pm

    Sir: As a resident of a county but one away from Sheriff Judd’s, I am often entertained by his press conferences, portions of which are frequently broadcast on local news (Tampa Bay region).
    Many of his appearances feature pillars of the community caught in pedo sex stings – I swear he does six of these a year, yet his department catches those flies again and again.
    You, sir, may wish the sheriff less opinionated, but hear this:
    A few years ago an armed, dangerous, deadly murderous multi-murderer (allegedly), was run to ground in Sheriff Judd’s Polk County. The fellow chose to shoot. Law responded, and the Law won. The (alleged) was pierced many, many times.
    Comes the press conference, with the same tone from the sheriff as in the video. Q: (I paraphrase) How do you explain the number of gunshot wounds? A: (I paraphrase less) We ran out of bullets.
    I want this guy to succeed the Donald.

they bring a phone we bring a gun.
never bring a phone to a gun fight.

the Sheriff says, the lesson is “Don’t mess with the Uber driver.”

Silliest thing I’ve heard this week. Whatever the circumstances, a man is dead; frivolity is not a useful way to educate the public about such situations.

But it’s nice to know that even though the Sheriff is dancing around it, law enforcement will come to the rescue of police academy graduates.

And, obviously, Uber’s firearms policy will doubtless complicate this story further.

    Are you for real?

    A man is dead because he pointed what he claimed was a firearm at another, innocent man, in a threatening manner.

    Also, Westlake was not a member of any LE agency, at least no report on the incidents mentions such employment. So, he is just some guy who took the police academy course and graduated. So, there is no evidence of any “professional courtesy” or bias in favor of Westlake.

    As to Uber’s firearms policy, who cares. The worst that Uber can do is to fire Westlake. And, if the shooting is ruled to be justified, then no civil judgement can be applied to Westlake and he can recover legal fees and other damages from any plaintiff in a liability suit in which he is a defendant.

    The Sheriff is doing a public service here, although he should have said “Don’t mess with your fellow man” instead of “…Uber driver.”

    Hopefully thugs everywhere will see this case and in the future will think twice before they carry out their thuggish behavior. Is that guy carrying? Maybe I shouldn’t act like Billy-Bad-Ass.

    An armed populace is a polite populace.

    Not so swift, are you, tom.

    The Packetman in reply to tom_swift. | September 1, 2018 at 6:47 pm

    I agree that the sheriff was unnecessarily flippant, especially being at a press conference representing the county.

    The facts are quite enough to make the point that one doesn’t go around claiming to have a firearm when one doesn’t …

    JusticeDelivered in reply to tom_swift. | September 1, 2018 at 8:11 pm

    I doubt that Uber can dictate any policy contrary to law, if they try the ensuing legal and civil fireworks will be entertaining. If Uber is smart they will add armed drivers as an extra charge option.

      Gremlin1974 in reply to JusticeDelivered. | September 1, 2018 at 10:57 pm

      Actually many companies have a no firearms policy and they are perfectly legal. Now I personally think they are moronic, but that is just my opinion. If you don’t like UBER’s policies then no one is forcing you to work for them.

      There’s no law requiring taxi drivers to be armed, so how do you reckon Uber’s stupid policy is contrary to the law?

      A company rule that drivers will not be armed is legal, though the only thing Uber can do is terminate the driver who violates their policy. Apparently this driver believed it was better to be fired than dead.

    You must not live in Florida. My sheriff will call bed guys scumbags and dirtbags and sometimes make Sheriff Grady look tame. There are certain counties here that if you brake the law you won’t get much sympathy from Sheriffs now the public at large,

    Don’t feed the troll. It only encourages it.

    DaveGinOly in reply to tom_swift. | September 2, 2018 at 4:50 pm

    Aggressive and apparently life-threatening behavior that is so egregiously stupid that it gets someone killed for it draws the ridicule and mockery it deserves. If the post mortem embarrassment makes another dumbass think twice about his actions and it saves his life, there’s value in it. It presents a great talking point for a dad trying to set a son straight – “You don’t want to get killed and become famous for doing something stupid, so think before you act.”

      MajorWood in reply to DaveGinOly. | September 3, 2018 at 1:12 pm

      I am not against someone ridiculing stupid behavior. But it should not be the Sheriff in his official capacity at an official press conference. The Sheriff needs to keep in mind that there are possible legal consequences to people other than him when he makes his statements, therefore, keep it objective and not subjective. As long as LEO remain objective, then bias is harder to introduce and prove. One can choose their words more wisely and express the same sentiment. Much better to say that “Westlake made a poor decision” rather than “Westlake is an idiot.”

    Char Char Binks in reply to tom_swift. | September 2, 2018 at 7:49 pm

    He’s going to be in big trouble in Über court!

Darwin award nominee

Second point

jealous boyfriend once – always a jealous boyfriend.

likely has history of jealousy and a few beatings – Justified or unjustified self defense – at least he stopped a lot of future beatings this guy would have administered.

So, did the rider give the Uber driver a five-star rating?

JusticeDelivered | September 1, 2018 at 1:15 pm

How will Black Liars Matter (BLM) explain that this white guys’ life had the same value as all those black guys’ lives?

The lesson is never get physical when there is an alternative.

DieJustAsHappy | September 1, 2018 at 1:24 pm

Ironically, Uber’s firearms policy “prohibits riders and their guests, as well as driver and delivery partners, from carrying firearms of any kind while using our app.”

What’s their “app” got to do with this?

    You book a ride with an Uber driver using a cell phone app, and also pay the driver that way. What Uber is saying is that you can’t use one of their drivers if you’re carrying, even legally, and if they discover that you are, they will block you from using it pre-emptively.

    Something else to think about when gun-grabbers leak CHL holders.

      Bruce Hayden in reply to SDN. | September 1, 2018 at 3:44 pm

      Let’s try playing “what if”. What if someone, who is normally armed, leaves their firearm home because of this policy, and they are the victim of violence that they may have avoided if they had been armed? What happens when Uber is sued for wrongful death? (The Uber driver, probably being judgment proof, would likely only be sued to get to Uber). Sure, they may have some defenses, like their adhesion contract, but I would much prefer to be the plaintiff’s attorney, than to try to defend them (except, of course, the plaintiff’s atty is likely on contingency, while the Uber atty is billing by the hour). There is a relevant saying: “get woke, go broke”.

        In your scenario, the CCW holder themselves obviously believed they were not at risk of a deadly force attack, or they would not have left their gun home.

        If the CCW holder themselves believed they were not at risk of a deadly force attack, there’s no reason Uber should have believed any differently. There’s no liability there.

        No one is forcing anyone to take an Uber. If you think it exposes you to death or serious bodily injury, by abiding by their rules, I suppose you can either not make use of the service or you can ignore their rules.

        I mean, it’s not like they can fire YOU.

        Attorney Andrew F. Branca

          DaveGinOly in reply to Andrew Branca. | September 3, 2018 at 1:31 am

          Gun free zones are created to establish a sense of security. If that sense of security is honestly presented as genuine by the business, are they not implying a guarantee of your safety? OTOH, if a business does not intend to present such a guarantee with its “no guns” sticker, shouldn’t gun-free zone signs have a disclaimer – “By establishing a gun-free zone on this premises, (business name here) makes no guarantees, express or implied, concerning your personal safety”?

          People who voluntarily enter gun-free zones do not do so thinking, “I know I’m exposing myself to a greater threat of danger here” or “I imagine the business has taken no other steps to assure my safey.” In fact, gun-free zones are meant to convey exactly the opposite impression (“You are safe here.”) and businesses understand that most people are stupid enough to believe it. It is the falsity of this impression, and the intent to make it, that makes businesses responsible for what happens when their (actual) security measures (if any) fail. They create what is effectively an implied contract – If you disarm yourself to do business with me, I will keep you safe while you are in my establishment. I think it is patently obvious that the creation of a gun free zone in a business is not meant to convey the sense, “We do not want you to be capable of defending yourself while in our establishment, nor do we have any responsibility for your safety. Your safety depends entirely upon the probability that you will not be subject to a criminal assault while patronizing our business.” If a business owner’s responsibility for his patron’s safety doesn’t reside somewhere between “some” and “complete,” patrons should be alerted to the fact that it is “zero.” But no business owner would make such an admission at the entrance of his establishment. It would be bad for business.

          “Gun free zones” are very much like the home owner who clears snow from his walk imperfectly, who becomes responsible for leaving a hazard (like ice) in place while creating a perception of safety (no snow). The perception of safety encourages pedestrians to use the walkway, only to become victims of the hazard not eliminated by the home owner’s efforts. The home owner is better off leaving an obvious safety hazard in place so people will avoid it (if they care to do so), rather than encouraging the public to presume the home owner’s efforts have created a safe environment. The home owner becomes responsible for creating a false impression of safety, leading people to injury. (Homeowners have been held liable for injuries caused in just this situation.)

      MajorWood in reply to SDN. | September 1, 2018 at 5:12 pm

      And this is when the astute LYFT marketing people come out and say “we are OK with CHL.” Make virtue signalling expensive and it will go away. Now I wish that I had an Uber account so I could cancel it.

      MajorWood in reply to SDN. | September 5, 2018 at 12:42 am

      I was poking around the Uber page (as a non-member) and it sure isn’t obvious where their policy on firearms is located or stated. Not under “Safety” where one might expect to find it.

      Ironically, Clackamas Town Center, which experienced a shooting that was stopped short by a CHL holder, is a gun-free zone, which apparently was unknown to both the ditz with the AR-15 and the guy with a handgun who interrupted his shooting spree. We no longer shop there with that policy in place.

No legal expert here but couldn’t an opposing counsel claim that there was an avenue of retreat by putting the car in reverse? Therefore, stand your ground would in fact protect him from being legally obligated to take this likely unsafe but ultimately possible avenue of retreat?

    The driver had a legal right to be there and there is no duty to retreat.

    Imagine a gun pointing right at you. Now, imagine putting your car in reverse and driving backwards: when you get shot, at least it wont be in the face.

    I personally don’t know anybody who can run or drive from a threat faster than ~1,000 feet per second.

    But what do I know.

    Attorney Andrew F. Branca

      healthguyfsu in reply to Andrew Branca. | September 1, 2018 at 11:40 pm

      No need to get snarky. I didn’t say it was a safe avenue of retreat…I said unsafe ^see.

      SYG seems to rarely be applicable in many of these cases, but with it being in the law, it prevents frivolity, mostly in the civil realm. That was the point I was trying to make.

    Gremlin1974 in reply to healthguyfsu. | September 1, 2018 at 11:03 pm

    On top of SYG, that argument would be easily defeated just by the simple fact that there was no time to retreat, events just happened to fast.

    Milhouse in reply to healthguyfsu. | September 2, 2018 at 1:11 am

    Therefore, stand your ground would in fact protect him from being legally obligated to take this likely unsafe but ultimately possible avenue of retreat?

    Even in duty to retreat states, the duty only exists if it is possible to do so safely. But you’re right that SYG avoids having to argue about whether this was possible.

    Backing up his vehicle would not be a bad decision, if he was still behind the wheel and the aggressor was in front of the car.

    A car body and windshield provides some protection from pistol rounds. In the case of an armed aggressor in front of the vehicle, the engine block and firewall will stop most pistol slugs. A steeply raked windshield tends to deflect bullets, often without penetrating.

    In this case, it appears that the Uber driver had exited his vehicle either before or while the truck driver was approaching him. It would have been tactically unsound to reenter the vehicle and attempt to back up before the aggressor reached him.

      DaveGinOly in reply to Mac45. | September 2, 2018 at 5:10 pm

      A windshield will deflect bullets – that is it will alter their paths. That does not mean that most bullets won’t penetrate, nor does it mean that a deflected bullet won’t still hit you. (I understand you meant to say “stop” and not merely “deflect,” but you are actually correct – windshields deflect bullets, they do not usually stop them. Plenty of videos on YouTube demonstrating this fact. Self-defense courses that teach defense from inside a vehicle teach their students to shoot through their windshields. And the students do it in the classes so they know it works and have confidence in the technique.) I don’t think a defender is under any obligation to presume that an attacker is using bullets incapable of doing injury to him through a windshield. That would be a bad bet.

        No, I meant what I said; windshield deflect bullets, they do not STOP bullets [except in very, very rare instances]. There have been a number of studies done by LE and other groups concerning windshield penetration by handgun rounds. What was found is that the more acute the angle [that is less than 90 degrees] of the oncoming projectile, the more likely it is to be deflected and FAIL to penetrate the windshield. When a bullet strikes a sloping windshield, it tries to do one of to things. If the angle is acute enough, it essentially ricochets along the outer surface of the glass, failing to penetrate at all. If it does penetrate the outer layer of the glass, it tries to exit perpendicular to the plane of the opposite surface of the glass. Several years ago, i investigated a police involved shooting. The officer fired a single 185 gr .45ACP round at the windshield of a car driving toward him. The point of impact on the outside of the glass was directly in front of the driver’s face. The projectile impacted the glass at an angle of 52 degrees off perpendicular to the outer surface of the glass. The bullet penetrated the windshield and struck the drive in the groin 32″ below the point of aim AND behind the dashboard.

        Shooting through the windshield, defensively, from inside the vehicle is a different matter. People are taught to shoot a HOLE in the windshield simply because the glass has a tendency to deflect bullets either down, along the inside of the glass and into the dashboard or to cause them to fly out perpendicular to the outer surface of the glass, usually flying well above the target.

        As the distance between the windshield and the firearm becomes greater, the angle of impact becomes more acute, resulting in a lower chance of penetration. Side window glass is another story altogether and can not be relied upon to provide any significant deflection of pistol bullets, largely because it is designed to fragment upon impact.

      Char Char Binks in reply to Mac45. | September 2, 2018 at 7:56 pm

      The Über driver shot from inside the car.

      Staying in the car could have been a good idea if he’d run over his attacker. That’s another good way to kill someone who needs killing.

DieJustAsHappy | September 1, 2018 at 2:36 pm

I see. Thanks for the clarification. I now makes sense to me.

I live in Florida and use to live not far from where this incident took place. It is frightful to see this not only because a life is taken, but also someone who has driven on HWY 27 hundreds of times it makes my skin hair stand up on end just thinking about this. This is rural Florida and not the big city.

The second thing is once again Sheeiff Grady puts on another entertaining press conference.

I like this Sheriff. Did anyone else expect him to start referring to the “goofball” as “dumbass”. I think that shows quite a bit of restraint.

@Andrew: Is there any speculation as to why Uber driver removed himself from his “highly defensible property?”

@Milhouse: one slight correction: the duty to retreat nly exists “if it is possible to do so with
COMPLETE safety.”

    I can’t read the Uber driver’s mind, but if one believes they cannot escape using their vehicle–and this bad guy had already overtaken the Uber driver’s smaller and likely less powerful vehicle once and forced it off the road, and in any case a high speed flight in a vehicle at night has its own risks to both driver and passenger–such that a physical encounter is unavoidable, a reasonable tactical decision is to exit the vehicle so one has some movement options and is not trapped in a lower position in one’s seat.


    Attorney Andrew F. Branca

    Char Char Binks in reply to Marcus. | September 2, 2018 at 7:59 pm

    Did he exit the vehicle before shooting? I thought he shot from inside the car. Either way, he managed all right, so I won’t second guess him.