Black man charged with shooting at cops may have the law on his side

A 2020 court ruling says Florida cops aren't immune from the state's "stand your ground" law

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The case of an African-American Florida man charged with trying to kill a police officer who barged into his home has a new wrinkle — he could have very well been within his rights to fire at the officers.

On February 3, the Pensacola Police Department SWAT team executed a search warrant at the home of Corey Joseph Marioneaux Jr., according to WEAR-TV. The station, quoting a police report, said officers knocked on the door for about 10 seconds, yelled “Pensacola Police, search warrant,” and used a battering ram to break open the door.

Police say that Marioneaux fired at officers, striking one of them in his shield. Police told WEAR that if not for the shield, the officer would have died.

The police department has not specified what the warrant was for that led them to the house. They have only said it was a “high-risk search warrant.” Marioneaux’s family claims the search warrant was for electronics, WEAR reported.

Marioneaux was home with his two babies, ages 1 and 3, when police arrived. After the forced entry, the children were in the care of officers in a police car. One of the children fell out of the parked car, receiving several injuries to his face, as reported by theGrio. Pensacola police told WEAR they’re opening an internal investigation into what happened to the toddler.

Family members and Marioneaux’s church pastor told WEAR that he’s an upstanding citizen who’s never been in trouble.

“The young man — once he found out it was the police, he laid down the weapon, he came out with his hands up,” his Pastor LuTimothy May told WEAR. May said Marioneaux works with area youth through various organizations, including his church.

Marcus Lett, a relative, said Marioneaux’s a licensed gun owner with no felony on his record.

“They know he’s licensed, so why go through these extremes to press these charges when anyone would’ve done the same thing to protect our home and our family?” Lett told WARE.

Lett’s response shed light on Florida’s “stand your ground” law and the impact it could have on this case. Under Florida law, a person can use deadly force when threatened. Here’s what a portion of the law says:

A person who is in a dwelling or residence in which the person has a right to has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and use or threaten to use:

(a) Nondeadly force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force; or

(b) Deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.

The law as it applies to a citizen shooting at police has already been tested.

In 2015, John DeRossett opened fire on Brevard County Sheriff’s deputies trying to enforce a warrant on his niece, who court filings say was alleged to have used a bedroom in DeRossett’s home for prostitution.

DeRossett’s attorney said his client didn’t know who was coming into his home, according to Florida Today.

Prosecutors charged DeRossett, a white man, with a first-degree felony attempted murder of a law enforcement officer. But after spending five years in jail awaiting trial, a court agreed that stand your ground applies in his case. Florida’s Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and dismissed the case.

“In reaching our decision, we are mindful that DeRossett’s actions endangered the lives of three law enforcement officers,” the court wrote.  “However, as found by the trial court and as discussed both in this opinion and in our prior opinion, in this case, the State did not meet its burden of proof to show that DeRossett knew or reasonably should have known that he was discharging his firearm at law enforcement officers.

Given that, it’s fair to wonder whether the same logic will apply in Marioneaux’s case.

Marioneaux has also been charged with the attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, just as DeRossett was. After being booked into jail Marioneaux posted $50,000 bail and was released.

The most recent incident continues a long line of shootings in which police have entered dwellings and shot and killed their Black occupants — sometimes announced, sometimes not.

On February 2, Minneapolis police used its controversial “no-knock” policy while serving a warrant in a homicide investigation. Police shot and killed a Black man, 22-year-old Amir Locke, who cops say pointed a gun at them. Locke’s family, however, told the media that their son was startled out of deep sleep and reached for his licensed gun before police shot him.

Breonna Taylor made national headlines in March 2020 when Louisville police entered her apartment to serve a search warrant and set off a string of events that resulted in her death.

Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, said he didn’t realize police had entered the apartment because they didn’t announce themselves, and he fired at officers because he thought intruders had broken in. Cops fired in return, killing Taylor.

Initially, Walker was indicted and charged with attempted murder of a police officer. A year later, a Kentucky judge dismissed the charges with permanently, theGrio reported.

Ray Marcano contributed to this report.

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