Another murder defendant is seeking protection under the state's controversial "stand your ground" law, arguing he shot a man in self-defense during a chaotic confrontation outside a Tampa bar.
Jimmy Lee Cruz, 34, is charged with second-degree murder in the death of Walter J.J. Revear, 28, who was dubbed the "public face of juvenile delinquency" in the mid-1990s because of his long arrest record as a youth.
Cruz's efforts to persuade a judge to dismiss his case coincide with the sentencing today Friday of tow company owner Donald Michael Rivera, also known as Donald Montanez, who unsuccessfully sought immunity under the same self-defense law. Rivera was convicted of manslaughter and felony murder in the 2006 shooting death of Glen "Chuck" Rich.
Defense witnesses for Cruz testified during a hearing Thursday that dozens of people were fighting outside the Interstate Lounge on Nebraska Avenue the night of May 17, 2011.
"I saw some girls fighting," said witness Sharrod Dozier, who described it as "a brutal fight ... fists swinging." One of the women had blood on her.
At one point, witnesses said, several women threatened to use mace and a stun gun on Cruz, who was standing next to his car. Cruz threw a cup of liquid in the direction of the crowd, and a man, identified by some as Revear, punched Cruz' brother, Mike, and then started punching and kicking him when he hit the ground, the witnesses said.
Just before he was hit, Mike Cruz "was saying, 'you all need to chill,' " said Sammy Bankston, who was with the Cruz brothers that night. Mike Cruz had his hand out "trying to calm the situation down," Bankston said.
Bankston said he didn't see the assailant holding a weapon. But "he did have his hand on his waistband."
Michael Mike Cruz said he saw someone with a gun at his side, but that person never fired the gun. He said he curled up in a ball on the ground after Rivear hit him and started beating him. "The crowd was surrounding me," he said. "A couple blows and then a gunshot."
Michael Mike Cruz said he and his brother and Bankston jumped into Jimmy Cruz's car and sped off. Michael Cruz said he knew someone had been shot but didn't call police because others were taking care of that. He fled, he said, because he felt "vulnerable."
Witness Charles Dixon, who captured much of the confrontation on video using his phone, testified, "Michael hit JJ, and JJ slapped him and he fell to the ground."
Next, referring to the defendant, Dixon said, "His brother run from behind the car and shoot that boy in his face."
Bankston said he backed up, and then heard a gunshot. People scattered, he said, and he got into Cruz's car with the Cruz brothers.