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Iraq War veteran killed; widow says Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law is free pass for murder

11:50 AM, Mar 22, 2012   |    comments
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Valrico, FL (CNN/WFLA/WTFS/WTSP) - Outrage over last month's shooting death of an unarmed teen in Florida has put a new focus on the state's "Stand Your Ground" law. The widow of a man shot dead in front of his daughter, says it is a free pass for murder.

When David James, an Iraq War veteran, escaped combat in the Middle East unscathed, his wife Kanina breathed a sigh of relief.

"I would worry about him but I thought he'd be safe here," she said.

Kanina was wrong; and now wants to know why Trevor Dooley, a 71-year-old retired bus driver, shot her husband in broad daylight, right front of their eight-year-old daughter. Dooley claims it was self defense. Kanina James calls it murder.

"What person brings a gun to a park when there's children? I mean, he killed my husband. He could've just talked to him," James said.

Whether or not Trevor Dooley fired in self-defense is at the heart of this case. Also central to the story is Dooley's defense-Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law-which allows a person to stand their ground and use deadly force if they fear someone could seriously harm them.

Here's what witnesses said happened on that September Sunday in 2010. Forty-one-year-old David James was playing basketball with his daughter when witnesses said Dooley, who lived right across the street, started yelling at a teenager who was skateboarding, to get off the court. That's when witnesses said James intervened.

James yelled back to Dooley, asking him to show where any sign said no skateboarding. Dooley then crossed the street to the park to confront James.

A tennis player at the park, Michael Whitt, testified things turned ugly when Dooley reached for his waistband. Whitt said James then lunged at Dooley. The two men struggled on the ground before James was shot once through the heart. On the 911 call, Whitt is heard trying to help.

Dooley tells a different story; one that contradicts witness statements. Dooley told authorities when he took the gun out of his right front pocket James saw the weapon and knocked him to the ground. At a hearing to get the charges dismissed, Dooley testified, "he was choking me to death."

Dooley's lawyer said his client turned to walk away towards home and that James was the aggressor. He said Dooley did show a gun, but did not use it until he felt his life was threatened. He said charges against his client should be dropped given the Stand Your Ground law.

Kanina James said her husband of 13 years had never been aggressive, that he was a gentle family man. She believes he was trying to protect himself and their daughter, Danielle, after he saw Dooley pull a gun.

"He loved Danielle so much, that breaks my heart, that Trevor Dooley took my daughter's best friend away from her; she'll never have her daddy," Kanina James said.

Danielle's testimony about how and why the situation turned violent is key in a case that hinges on self-defense. Danielle, now 10, recalled how her father asked Dooley where the signs were that said "no skateboarding" on the court.

"My dad got on top of him, so he could keep him down so he could get the answer," the young girl said.

"Where were your dad's hands?" prosecutors asked.

"On his arms."

"On the man's arms?"

"Yeah," she said.

Danielle then recalled her father's last moments.

"I think the guy pulled out the gun then," she said.

"Did you hear anything?" said prosecutors.

"Yeah."

"What did you hear?"

"Like when it shot?" Danielle said.

"You heard a gunshot," said prosecutors.

"Yeah.

"Did your dad say anything then?"

"Yeah."

"What did he say?" said prosecutors.

"Call the ambulance, I have been shot," she said.

When Kanina James arrived at the scene, her husband was already dead and her daughter was crying, asking, "Why isn't anyone helping my daddy?"

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