Boat Rescue Turns into Deadly Shooting – How Being the Hero is Not Always the Best Option

March 31, 2022 Criminal Defense, Violent Crimes

As human beings, it is natural to feel empathy and want to help others when they seem to be in distress. Some may even be considered a “hero” for providing a helping hand. However in some cases, trying to help out others may end up backfiring.

What happens when the person you are trying to help becomes the problem themselves? In a recent case in South Carolina, an older couple was simply trying to save a couple they believed to be in need of assistance after falling off a jet ski. Yet what instead occurred was a violent altercation, resulting in death.

This case is a perfect example of knowing when to intervene, versus when to just call the police. However, no one ever thinks that helping to save another will end up going so south. The details of this case, along with Florida’s own laws of self-defense, will be covered.

What was the Incident?

The report of the incident was published by Oconee County Sheriff’s Office. On March 15th, 2022, on Lake Keowee in South Carolina, an older couple were riding out on their pontoon boat when they noticed a younger couple in distress. The younger couple had been on a jet ski but had fallen off, neither of them wearing life jackets.

The couple on the pontoon boat rushed to their rescue, helping both the man and woman onto their boat. Meanwhile, the jet ski was still on, and going around in circles on the lake. Although the older couple had just been trying to help, the younger man from the jet ski suddenly became very agitated.

He started to assault the older couple on the pontoon boat. Investigators believe that the man may have been intoxicated, and was trying to get back onto his jet ski. In an attempt to stop the altercation, the younger woman who had been with the agitated man shoved him back into the water. The older couple pulled him back up onto the boat again, hoping he would be calmer.

Yet the argument and assault continued, and deputies reported that after the second encounter, the man shot the younger man from the jet ski, claiming he was fearful for the safety of himself and his wife after being assaulted. The man who had been shot died on the pontoon boat.

Authorities arrived at the scene around 2:16pm, after there were reports of gunshots. The police identified the man who had been shot as 29-year-old Nathan Drew Morgan. The other individuals from the incident have not yet been named.

Responses from Authorities

The initial report was filed on the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office’s website, where they described the details of the incident. When the report was first posted on March 16th, it stated that investigators from the 10th Circuit Solicitor’s Office would plan to meet in the following days to decide if there was probable cause for any potential criminal charges to be filed against the man who shot Morgan.

A follow-up post was published two days later on March 18th, 2022. Under the statement it concluded that after all of the evidence and information had been obtained from the case, it was determined that the 74-year-old man who was driving the pontoon boat had acted out of self-defense. 10th Circuit Solicitor David Wagner determined based upon the evidence presented that no criminal charges would be filed. All parties from the incident have now been notified of the decision to not press any charges, and the Oconee County Sheriff’s Office only asks for continued thoughts and prayers from Morgan’s family.

Warning to Good Samaritans in Florida

Although this most recent incident happened outside the state of Florida, it brings up a reminder of Florida’s laws on self-defense. It can also serve as a warning for people who think that they are simply doing a good deed can instead lead to unexpected and tragic results.

In Florida, a person is allowed to use or threaten to use force to protect anyone. This includes family, friends, or even just a stranger on the street. As long as there is the belief that they have reason to use for to prevent them from imminent unlawful force by another person, then it is completely legal.

Typically, it can only be non-deadly force when trying to protect or “save” someone. For instance, if you were to witness someone pushing someone else to the ground, you are allowed under Florida law to either threaten, or completely use force to step in between the altercation and protect the supposed victim. However, it is not acceptable to shoot the supposed attacker if they were only using non-deadly force.

If the person pushing the other person down had pulled out a knife, then it would be a valid reasoning for the person standing by to intervene with deadly force, i.e. a gun. It does not matter whether or not the bystander knows the victim or the attacker. Once the deadly force was used or threatened to be used against the victim, the bystander is now legally allowed to use deadly force as well. A firearm, or means of other deadly force, can be used to protect the victim or themselves from serious bodily injury or potential death.

With this information, it is hard to say whether the same case would result in no charges because of self-defense in Florida. The man driving the boat claimed that he was scared for both his and his wife’s lives after the man from the jet ski was attempting to assault them. Yet if there was no weapon being used or attempt to use one, the older man driving the boat may have been facing criminal charges had the incident happened in Florida rather than South Carolina. To read about self-defense in Florida, you can read our blog on the Stand Your Ground Law here.

Florida Law Justifying Self Defense

Under Florida Statute Section 776.012 titled “Justifiable Use of Force”, the law states that a person is justified in using or threatening to use force—except deadly force—against another when they believe it is reasonable to defend themselves against another person’s imminent use of unlawful force. A person who uses force in accordance with this doesn’t have any duty to retreat before using or threatening to use force.

The second section of the statute covers the justification of using or threatening to use deadly force if they believe that it is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself of herself or another to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony. This section allows a person to threaten or use deadly force (a gun) if they believe it will prevent them from great harm or death, or if it prevents a forcible felony.

A forcible felony includes the following:

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or a loved one has been accused of a violent crime that you believe to be self-defense, it is of the utmost importance to seek out the help of an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney. Especially if there was the inclusion of a deadly force in the altercation, you could be facing serious consequences if convicted. A quality attorney will be able to assist you through the legal ups and downs of a criminal charge. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience representing clients from all over the state of Florida. Call (850) 681-7777 or write an online message today for a free consultation.

 Written by Karissa Key

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