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He got shot through a barbershop door. Florida's self-defense law cleared the killer

David Ovalle, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

MIAMI -- Two seeming strangers went into a North Miami-Dade barbershop. One man, Robinson Fertulien, finished his haircut and walked to the bathroom to urinate. The other, Garry Garcon, was about to get his hair cut.

Suddenly, somewhere outside the barbershop, gunfire erupted on the street. Everyone inside scattered, including Garcon, who took refuge in a back office across from the bathroom.

Then there was a flurry of gunshots inside the barbershop. When the smoke cleared, Fertulien was found shot to death -- hit five times through a door, his legally owned gun in one hand, a piece of tissue paper in the other. Arrested a day after the 2014 shooting, Garcon admitted on video that in the panic of the moment, he fired a volley of bullets through a door into the bathroom, even though he didn't see anyone threatening him.

But three years later, Garcon tweaked his story. On the witness stand last month, he claimed Fertulien reached around the door and pointed his gun at him. In fear for his life, Garcon claimed, he fired his weapon at Fertulien and fled the scene before police arrived.

This week, a Miami-Dade judge agreed Garcon acted in self-defense, throwing out the murder charge under Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law.

"Gary's testimony was credible in the eyes of the court because it was the truth," said defense lawyer Jonathan Jordan, who represented him along with Andrew Rier. "The judge made the correct decision that he was justified in defending himself under Florida's Stand Your Ground Law. We are very happy for him and his family."

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The decision Tuesday by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Martin Zilber outraged law enforcement and relatives of Fertulien, a security guard with a valid concealed weapons permit.

Florida's Stand Your Ground law has long been a subject of concern from critics who say it fosters a vigilant, shoot-first culture and allows criminals to unjustly claim self-defense. The 2005 law eliminated a citizen's duty to retreat before using deadly force to counter a threat. The law, which was backed by the politically powerful National Rifle Association, was updated last year when lawmakers put the burden on prosecutors to disprove a defendant's self-defense claim at a hearing before a jury trial.

Fertulien's family believes he pulled his gun to defend himself, once shots rang out, and never threatened Garcon.

"It's an unfair, unjust law," Fertulien's brother told the Herald. "It seems this law is letting a lot of criminals get away things they've done and they can just use the law to justify their means."

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