Last Friday’s news conference, at which State Attorney Angela Corey, Jacksonville Beach Police Chief Patrick K. Dooley and Assistant State Attorney Brian Brady announced that no charges would be brought against Iron Order prospects Kristopher Stone and Timothy White for killing Black Piston Zachariah “Nas T” Tipton outside Nippers Beach Grille last June 26, raised three obvious questions the Jacksonville press corps seemed reluctant or unprepared to ask.
The first and most obvious question is three digits and one word long: 134 days? Why did the investigation take 134 to complete?
Brady’s report says, “Video was obtained from Beach Marine by the Jacksonville Beach Police Department (JBPD) within hours of the shooting at Nippers.” The video appears to show a premeditated attack by three Black Pistons, including Tipton, on two Iron Order Prospects. Tipton left his motorcycle helmet and riding gloves on before he punched Stone in the back of the head. Stone also seems to have anticipated and been prepared for the confrontation. He was carrying a loaded gun. He was punctilious about the circumstances under which an armed person in Florida may use deadly force. His response seemed premeditated and he opened fire on Tipton within ten seconds of being struck.
The report also cites statements from eleven witnesses. The principal witness was “Tim White…a prospect in the Iron Order motorcycle club (who) was standing only feet way when Kristopher Stone was attacked.” The report ignores the possibility that White and Stone might have been co-conspirators. The other witnesses had very brief glimpses of the ten second fight. They were all interviewed by police within six hours of the shooting. So what took so long?
Corey said Friday that Brady was still hard at work on his 4,000 word report last week. That is obviously a lie. The Aging Rebel was told the decision not to charge White and Stone was made at least three weeks ago.
Iron Order Collaboration
It is also worth wondering out loud why officers of the Iron Order Motorcycle Club were allowed to collaborate on an investigation that was hidden from Tipton’s family and the press for more than four months?
At the conference Corey said the video had been “kept secret” since June. She was obviously lying about that. Numerous members and supporters of the Iron Order had at least indirect knowledge of the surveillance video within 72 hours of the shooting. Some Iron Order officers saw the video and some, like former Iron Order president Ray “Izod” Lubesky, may even have been given copies of it.
For example, on June 29, a commenter on The Aging Rebel who identified himself as Foster wrote “230 witnesses! Cell videos! Surveillance videos! That is why he was not charged.”
On July 2, a commenter who called himself “Rebels wrong,” made statements that indicate he had indirect knowledge of the “secret” video the State Attorney showed last Friday. He wrote, “Rebel, are you going to come clean when all the evidence is made public? The facts are this, the IO patch and prospect were attempting to leave and were assaulted by six. Yes six.” Although there were only three Black Pistons actually involved in the fight, three more Black Pistons were walking toward the scene when the shooting started. The only way “Rebels wrong” could have known that was by talking to someone who had seen the video.
On July 5, patch holder and club council John C. “Shark” Whitfield wrote, “My investigation so far tells me that had there not been reckless aggressive behavior by persons that started this, none of this would have happened. My basis for this comes from my time down in Florida, as I (accompanied by Associate Director of Legal Affairs Tracker) went to Jacksonville and interviewed the brothers/prospects in full; we went to scene and chronicled the information we needed there: spoke to law enforcement there to gain a better perspective; and have taken other steps that I will not outline in this thread.”
Eight days later, on July 13, Lubesky claimed to have complete knowledge of the incident, including the “secret” video. He wrote, “I will be very happy to send you a written statement of exactly what happened that night minute by minute supported by all the evidence, testimony, and video but only after the State’s Attorney’s Office announces its intentions in this case.”
On August 16, a frequent commenter named “Lol” wrote, “Were you able to confirm what I told you about video being part of the investigation Rebel?”
On August 21 the same confidant commenter wrote “Here I’ll give you ‘insider.’ The SAO will announce No Charges to be filed. Justifiable Homicide.”
The final question the report raises is whether Stone acted reasonably.
The actions of the six Black Pistons captured on the video after Tipton was shot clearly shows they were not there to kill anybody. When the fight turned to homicide they left. In fact, if they had stayed long enough to be detained by police they probably would have been charged with homicide.
Brady concluded that Stone acted reasonably because he suffered a broken nose during the brief fight and that he was, allegedly, so terrified of Tipton and the other Black Pistons that he evacuated his bladder. Brady made less of the broken rib Tipton suffered during the fight. Stone’s nose apparently trumped Tipton’s rib because Tipton threw the first punch.
The key legal point is whether Stone was justified in using deadly force. A victim in Florida may use deadly force if they have suffered or have a reasonable expectation that they will suffer “great bodily harm.” So then the question becomes what is “great bodily harm.”
Both Brady and Corey said that Stone’s broken nose constituted great bodily harm. Tipton’s rib, broken by a kick from a deadly weapon, a shod foot, did not. And, Brady cited four Florida cases to support his opinion. All four cases were also cited in the more famous shooting of a loitering youth named Trayvon Martin by a vigilante named George Zimmerman. And that case was investigated by Corey so the amount of research required to reach a legal basis for a decision, despite the delay in announcing that decision, must have been minimal.
The first legal citation is a domestic violence case called Heck v. Florida. Heck “was charged and tried for an assault on a female victim with whom he had been living. When the victim came home one evening, she found her mobile home in a mess and appellant dismantling his waterbed. The victim was pressured to assist Heck in removing the waterbed in his vehicle. During the drive to his destination, Heck struck the victim twice on the head with his hand. The altercation continued after arrival, as the victim tried to escape and was grabbed by the hair and dragged back to the vehicle. He threatened her with a paint tool held to her throat. Heck also punched the victim in the eye, sending her falling backward. As a result of the punch, she suffered a broken eye socket. One-third of the bone is missing, and the fragments are in the victim’s sinuses.”
The other three cases were also cited in Heck and subsequently in the Zimmerman case. The first is Cooley v. Florida which concludes that a broken leg requiring surgery is an example of great bodily harm. Stone’s broken nose did not require surgery. The second is Coronado v. Florida which found the defendant could be charged with aggravated assault for hitting his victim’s face with a stick which caused “a facial fracture, numbness and a great deal of pain around the eye and face.” The facial fracture in Coronado was also a fractured eye socket. Tipton is not alleged to have used any weapon and the injury Stone suffered was minor compared to the victim in Coronado. The third cited case was Owens v. Florida which found that facial scarring indicated great bodily harm. There was no mention in Brady’s report that Stone suffered any permanent disfigurement. All four of these decisions, but not Brady’s report, reference a fifth case titled E.A v. Florida which states, “Great bodily harm defines itself and means great as distinguished from slight, trivial, minor, or moderate harm, and as such does not include mere bruises as are likely to be inflicted in a simple assault and battery…. Whether the evidence describing such harm or injury is within the meaning of the statute…is generally a question of fact for the jury.”
In the homicide arising from the fight between Stone and Tipton, Corey and Brady have already determined that there will be no jury.