According to police, Woodward stealthily approached a Labor Day barbecue around 12:30 p.m. and fired 31 rounds. When police arrived, three men had been shot. Two died, while a third who was hit 11 times, survived. In the weeks leading up to the shooting, the neighbors had unsuccessfully tried to get “repeat violence” injunctions against one another. Woodward, a veteran who says he is being treated for psychiatric problems that prevent him from controlling his anger, was caught on surveillance video crawling on his belly toward the neighbor’s house. He told police afterward he considered himself on a “mission” and that he was in a “war zone,” according to WFTV.
In his motion seeking immunity from murder charges, Woodward’s lawyer cites a recent Florida court decision that interprets “imminent” criminal activity in another context to mean “not only impending or ready to take place, but also expected, likely to occur, or hanging threateningly over one’s head.” He reasons that one can likewise use deadly force to prevent “imminent death” under the Stand Your Ground when a threat of death hangs over one’s head.
As broad as Florida’s Stand Your Ground law is in authorizing deadly force, a judge would be hard-pressed to infer that the Florida legislature intended to authorize shootings in which “imminent” effectively means “preemptive.” But the legal motion demonstrates the mindset of at least some of the state’s lawyers, who apparently feel comfortable citing a doctrine of war in the context of a self-defense killing. That mindset also seems to be infecting those individuals who, citing expansive self-defense laws, choose vigilante justice over calling the police.