Florida man in loud music killing felt victimized: jail tapes

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 18, 2014 5:18 PM

By Susan Cooper Eastman

JACKSONVILLE, Florida (Reuters) - A Florida man convicted at the weekend of attempted murder in a dispute over loud rap music felt he was victimized by four teenagers he shot at, according to tapes of jailhouse telephone calls released by prosecutors on Tuesday.

Michael Dunn, 47, is facing a minimum sentence of 60 years in prison in the November 2012 shootings at a Jacksonville gas station. The jury could not reach a verdict on a murder charge for the killing of one of the teenagers.

In the telephone recordings released by the Florida State Attorney's office as standard practice, Dunn is heard claiming his innocence to his fiancée Rhonda Rouer while he is being held awaiting trial.

"Not to wallow in despair or anything ... I'm the victim here. I was being preyed upon and I fought back," Dunn said during a call from an isolation cell in the Duval County jail. "I refused to be a victim and now I'm incarcerated."

The case has revived debate over racial profiling and Florida's gun-friendly self-defense laws after the jury deadlocked on a first-degree murder charge over the death of 17-year-old Jordan Davis, who was sitting in the back seat of the teens' Sport Utility Vehicle.

Prosecutors say they will re-try Dunn, who is white, on the murder charge.

Dunn killed Davis after he parked next to the teens at a gas station store. Dunn and Rouer stopped at the store to buy white wine; the teens to buy cigarettes and gum. Dunn asked the teens to turn down the music in their vehicle and they initially complied. But Davis cranked it back up.

During his trial, Dunn testified that he fired his gun in a panic and fearing for his life. He said he saw Davis hold up what he thought was the barrel of a shotgun. He told the jury that Davis threatened to kill him in a torrent of expletive-laced abuse, although his account of what Davis said varied over time.

Prosecutors say there found no weapon in the SUV, and that Davis died in a defensive position.

On the jailhouse tapes, Dunn appears incredulous why anyone would suspect him of a violent crime.

"I wouldn't do this at this point in my life. It's perfect," Dunn said.

After the trial ended on Saturday, Dunn's attorney Cory Strolla said his client was "devastated" by the guilty verdicts. "He never saw it coming, not one bit."

The jailhouse recordings shed more light on Dunn's racial attitude. He suggested the teenagers were prone to violence. One

was on probation for a third-degree felony the night of the shooting but Davis and the other two had no records.

Previously in a letter from jail, Dunn had referred to black inmates as "thugs." His lawyer Strolla said the letter was written after Dunn's life had been threatened in jail.

(Additional reporting and writing by Barbara Liston and David Adams; Editing by Grant McCool)