Video Supports Motorcyclist’ Self Defense Claim

By Dean Weingarten

Video Supports Motorcyclist' Self Defense Claim
Video Supports Motorcyclist' Self Defense Claim
Dean Weingarten
Dean Weingarten

Arizona -(Ammoland.com)- A story is developing in Florida.  It appears to be another case where the video shows a completely different story from what the police originally reported. Christian Gunter is the motorcyclist.

Note that he is wearing a full face helmet and what appears to be a complete motorcycle outfit, including jacket and pants.

This picture is a screenshot from surveillance video, just after the shooting.

The red car in the upper right is the car that the person who was shot, Roger Atlas, arrived in.

Roger is wearing a green upper garment in the video below.

Here is the early report from Sarasota County Sheriff facebook.com:

The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office arrested a 22-year-old man following a road rage incident that escalated into a shooting around 6:15 p.m., tonight. Christian Gunter, DOB 12/29/92, 4216 Charing Cross Rd., Sarasota, was driving his motorcycle south on US 41 just south of Bee Ridge Road when he was in a confrontation with 59-year-old Roger Atlas, who was driving a red Ford Taurus. The two pulled over and the verbal argument turned physical, prompting Gunter to pull out a handgun and shoot Atlas in the abdomen. Atlas was taken to Sarasota Memorial Hospital with non life-threatening injuries. Gunter was arrested and charged with Aggravated Battery with a Firearm. (Mug shot not available at time of post.)

The person shot, Roger Atlas, gave this story.  From wtsp.com:

According to the arrest affidavit, Atlas said he told Gunter his vehicle was having trouble and possible overheating and to mind his own business. When the light turned green, Atlas started driving and Gunter pulled up behind him.

Atlas said Gunter continued to follow him, even after changing lanes multiple times, and followed him into the Sunoco parking lot where Atlas stopped to reportedly get a beverage. Atlas said he approached Gunter about following him, and during the argument, Gunter pulled out a gun and the two started to struggle. During the struggle, the gun went off and shot Atlas in the lower left abdomen.

The video shows a completely different story.

Gunter's motorcycle is parked at the gas pump, facing to the left, when Atlas arrives.  Gunter's motorcycle is facing the correct direction, according to the arrows on the pavement.  Atlas pulls up, against the traffic flow, facing to the right.  He stops, gets out of the vehicle, confronts and attacks Gunter.  Gunter has his helmet on.   Atlas grabs and pulls Gunter down, knocking down Gunter's motorcycle in the process.   It is very difficult to communicate from inside a full motorcycle helmet with the face shield down.

Christian Gunter,
Christian Gunter,

Gunter manages to extricate himself from Atlas' grasp, and is backing away to the right as Atlas is following him. As Atlas continues to follow him, Gunter shoots Atlas.

Watch the video for yourself. It does not have great resolution. Gunter's attorney says that this is a clear case of Florida's “Stand Your Ground” defense.  From the heraldtribune.com:

“If you look at the video, it clearly shows the alleged victim was the aggressor, and that my client was defending himself, in a public place where he had a right to be, with no duty to retreat, and that he was attacked unprovoked,” Young said. “This is a ‘Stand Your Ground' case and we look forward to proving it in court.”

There are several things about this case worth considering. Gunter did not tell his side of the story, at least not immediately. He followed the legal advise to not to talk to the police. He was arrested, and has spent several nights in jail. As of last report, he has not been granted bail. In the early accounts Gunter was made out to be someone who escalated a road rage incident into a shooting. The video negates much of the early reporting, but it cannot erase it. Given the video, it is hard to understand the arrest and lack of bond.

But the police did not have Gunter's side of the story, and likely did not have the video at the time of arrest. In addition, Gunter made some after the fact errors. You can see in the video that he goes out and uprights his motorcycle. He should have left it in place, to show the police what happened. Gunter exposed himself to a possible attack by Atlas, who entered the red car after being shot. Gunter should not have assumed that Atlas was no longer a threat.

It would have been a good idea to get the license plate number of the car from a distance. It is not clear if Gunter waited at the station for the police to arrive. Atlas drove away before the police arrived.

Gunter has a concealed carry permit, and is reported to be a member of a local firearms group. From a comment at the Herald Tribune article:

Christian just happens to belong to a firearm group on facebook that I belong to as well. The proof is in the pudding. You see him at the pump, you see the man jump out of his car and rush at Christian, you see Christian TRY to retreat as the victim keeps perusing the altercation, and then Christian drew his firearm and did the same exact thing I would have. This is a textbook stand your ground case. Christains lawyer will have a field day in court with this case. He should be a free man as of this moment.

Florida law says that the police are to determine if the “Stand Your Ground” law applies before arrest and charging occur.

From Gunter's attorney:

“If there's a confrontation and someone gets shot or hurt, the winner goes to jail. It doesn't matter about provocation. They're going to jail,” said Bradenton attorney Charles M. Britt III, who says he has handled 50 “stand your ground” cases. “The statute says that before law enforcement can make an arrest, they have to determine that ‘stand your ground' doesn't apply. It's right there in the statute, but I've never once seen them do it. They always arrest first and let the system sort it out. Since 2005 when it was written into the statute, I've never seen them do it, not once.”

But the Florida courts and prosecutors have negated the legislature's intent.  From the nraila.org:

SB-344 Burden of Proof restores the Stand Your Ground law to the original intent of the Legislature by putting the burden of proof BACK ON THE STATE where it belongs.

Through court action, prosecutors and courts have reversed the self-defense law that gives immunity from arrest, detaining in custody, charging and prosecuting until and unless an investigation reveals there is probable cause to believe the act was not lawful self-defense. They created a special “Stand Your Ground” that forces the victim to prove innocence rather than the state prove guilt. This bill stops that.

HB 169, currently in process in Florida, would give a defendant the right to recover legal fees, if a judge rules that the Stand Your Ground immunity applies. This might apply to Gunter in the future, as the law would be retroactive.

The case is quite similar to the Gabriel Mobley case, where the entire action was captured on video, but the Miami-Dade judge refused to grant Mobley immunity. Mobley was eventually granted immunity by the appeals court, and the immunity was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court.

Given the video, It seems unlikely a jury will find Gunter guilty of aggravated assault. Protective motorcycle gear may offer some protection, but it also limits mobility and vision. But Gunter will rack up considerable legal fees in the process. That is what the Florida law was meant to stop.

This case may give impetus to SB-344 and HB 169 in this years Florida legislative session.

c2014 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included. Link to Gun Watch

About Dean Weingarten;

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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    DanielTEXDagny T.Danieljames Recent comment authors
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    Daniel
    Guest
    Daniel

    ^^^ Hi Roger

    I so wish this had gone to trial and Atlas has lied on the stand under oath. Oh, well, can’t have everything, I guess.

    TEX
    Guest
    TEX

    The go to hell was to Anonymous !

    TEX
    Guest
    TEX

    GO TO HELL !

    Dagny T.
    Guest
    Dagny T.

    The story has been updated- http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20151113/ARTICLE/151119845/2416/NEWS?Title=No-charges-in-shooting-at-Sarasota-gas-station-

    No charges against Gunter. Seems Atlas couldn’t keep his story straight, and when confronted about the lies, lied again.

    Daniel
    Guest
    Daniel

    So, when did Roger Atlas begin referring to himself in the third person? I’m talking about the post above which is written ALL IN CAPITAL LETTERS defending himself. I’ve had a few run ins with Atlas myself as have a few ladies that I’m friends with. Yes, 59 yrear old Roger likes to bully girls. Tough guy isn’t he?? Roger’s short temper and his “ability” to fly into a rage are well known throughout Florida as well as musical instrument forums online and on Facebook. I actually have screenshots of him “screaming at” people on a fan page for former… Read more »

    james
    Guest
    james

    I was attacked by a man I do not know, I feared for my life.

    You have my full cooperation after I speak with my lawyer.

    JohnC
    Guest
    JohnC

    Two dumbasses, I expect both are getting what they deserve.

    Vince
    Guest
    Vince

    Christian Gunter was smart for not talking to the Police. It can only cause problems when you end up in court. The Police always uses your own words against you so keep your mouth shut. The old hot head got what was deserved.

    DR_T
    Guest
    DR_T

    The biggest problem I see with all of this is the way the local government chooses to make thier own law!!! and ignore upholding THE LAW AS WRITTEN!!!! This makes them just as bad as the criminal that rapes, murders and breaks laws because they think they can get away with what ever they feel like. Goverment officals that DO NOT FOLLOW the laws of this counrty, should and must be held accountable just like you and I would be!! The most important law that needs to be passed nation wide is all goverment employees WILL BE held accountable for… Read more »

    Dr Dave
    Guest
    Dr Dave

    Since the video doesn’t show the situation that started the mess. NO presumption of innocence is allowed if in fact you instigated the mess. It sounds from all non-Ammoland information that the cyclist actually provoked the mess when the motorist in the car was stopped at a light outside the purview of the video and before the incident. That doesn’t necessarily mean you can not longer self defend but you no longer get the free pass so to speak of SYG. You need to prove your case to a judge or jury. SYG is for the squeaky clean victim who… Read more »

    Anonymous
    Guest
    Anonymous

    You my friend are a moron.

    ANNONYMOUS
    Guest
    ANNONYMOUS

    THE STORY TELLERS YOU’VE ALL BECOME IS FASCINATING. GUNTER WHO HAS HAD PROBLEMS WITH ANGER IN THE PAST LIKE THE DOZENS OF KIDS HIS AGE THAT DO MOST ALL THE MASS SHOOTINGS AT SCHOOLS,ETC. BUT TELL A STORY CORRECT AS GUNTER BROUGHT THIS INCIDENT ON HIMSELF WHEN HE APPROACHED MR ATLAS AT THE LIGHT DOWN BY BEST BUY ,BY PULLING HIS MOTORCYCLE RIGHT BESIDE MR. ATLAS WHO WAS HAVING AN OVERHEATING PROBLEM WITH HIS CAR, AND AFTER GUNTER STARING AT MR ATLAS, HE ROLLED DOWN HIS WINDOW TO ASK WHAT HIS PROBLEM WAS, AND SO ARROGANTLY GUNTER REPLIED THAT MR… Read more »

    Elder Ambassador
    Guest
    Elder Ambassador

    It’s about time to hold those responsible for violating the law personally and financially responsible for said violation. If a LEO arrests a person claiming a “Stand Your Ground” defense that LEO, and any supervisor or adviser (ADA, etc.) instructing, advocating, or suggesting such arrest be required by law to pay from personal assets ALL expenses of the exonerated defendant. Not just “costs” which are usually less than half the true costs to the defendant.
    NONE of the funds required for reimbursement may come from ANY Governmental (Taxpayer funded) source.

    TEX
    Guest
    TEX

    Why in the hell isn’t the video good enough for him to get out on bail ? Plus,the kid should have left his bike where it was. He will beat this thing but it’s going to be expensive. I hope he recoups his attorney fees.

    anonymous
    Guest
    anonymous

    One can give details such as the basic outline of what occurred. Video takes time to pull and is not always clear. Note the video shows the aftermath of the confrontation not the start. Also duty to retreat means you can get away safely without fear of injury or death then do so. . Duty to retreat laws already allowed one to stand their ground they just state why they couldn’t get away safely ie perp had a weapon or implied they had one. Duty to retreat was meant to make it easier to sort out the cases where two… Read more »

    monkeysonacupcake
    Guest
    monkeysonacupcake

    Florida doesn’t require duty to retreat for stand your ground defense , here’s the statue. JUSTIFIABLE USE OF FORCE 776.012 Use or threatened use of force in defense of person.— (1) A person is justified in using or threatening to use force, except deadly force, against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that such conduct is necessary to defend himself or herself or another against the other’s imminent use of unlawful force. A person who uses or threatens to use force in accordance with this subsection does not have a duty to retreat before using or threatening… Read more »

    KSM
    Guest
    KSM

    The problem with collecting fees is as follows. If the sob isn’t worth any thing you are still out the money!!! The best you can do is get a judgment against him and screw with his credit. Or if you are real lucky he might come into money later. Judgments are only good for about ten years depending where you live .

    Ed
    Guest
    Ed

    The “recovery” is from the state for improperly detaining, charging, and/or prosecuting him.