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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Attorney Andrew F. Branca
Law of Self Defense LLC