Brevard County Officer Charged with Manslaughter After Accidental Shooting of Off-Duty Officer

December 9, 2022 Criminal Defense, Violent Crimes

Accidental shootings are tragic and unfortunate incidents that can come with harsh penalties in the state of Florida. Manslaughter charges are less severe than first-degree murder charges but can still have life-altering outcomes.

A recent case in Florida highlights the dangers of accidentally shooting someone, as a Brevard County deputy was shot and killed by a fellow off-duty deputy.

What was the Incident?

Brevard County Deputy Andrew Lawson, 23, was arrested after mistakenly shooting his roommate. According to the report, Lawson and Austin Walsh, 23—also a Brevard County deputy—were playing an online video game together while off duty.

The two off-duty officers had taken a break from playing games and were standing around talking when Lawson took out his gun he thought was unloaded. Deputy Lawson then “jokingly” pointed the gun at Walsh, which was actually loaded. A round fired off at Walsh, resulting in his death.

Lawson then immediately called 911 and was “distraught” and “devastated” when first responders arrived at the scene. The investigation was conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Palm Bay Police Department. The department said that Lawson fully cooperated with them during the investigation. Lawson was taken to the Brevard County Jail on a “no bond” warrant, where he has now been charged with manslaughter.

The following is a statement from Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey:

“Folks, this unnecessary and totally avoidable incident not only took the life of an amazing young man and deputy, but it has also forever changed the life of another good young man who made an extremely poor and reckless decision. Austin was such a great kid, and our hearts are broken over his loss. He will be deeply missed by our agency; our community and our prayers are with his family.”

What is a No Bond Warrant?

A no-bond warrant means that the person taken into custody cannot bond out of jail after being arrested. Essentially, the person arrested will be forced to wait in jail until they can appear before a judge in the courtroom.

During a criminal case, a judge has the power under Chapter 903 of the Florida Statutes to determine if there will be a pretrial release, and what conditions to set for it. If there is a pretrial release granted, there may be a monetary bond set that the defendant must pay in order to be released. There are cases in which the prosecution can file a motion to revoke a bond.

Florida Statute section 907.041(4)€ explains that a defendant, who is arrested for a crime where the State can ask for the accused to be detained, can be held for up to 24 hours by the arresting agency so that the prosecutor is may file a motion seeking pretrial detention. Once this is done, then there must be a hearing with the judge within five days of filing the motion for pretrial detention.

Even if the State files a motion seeking pretrial detention, there is still a possibility for the defendant’s pretrial release. Because a defendant is entitled to a hearing on the motion, not only can a skilled defense attorney help negotiate with the prosecution to come to an agreement, but they can help prepare evidence showing that the defendant is not a flight risk or a danger to the community.

Manslaughter Charges in Florida

When a person is killed unintentionally, the person responsible is most likely charged with manslaughter. Florida Statute section 782.07 defines manslaughter as the killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another person. Meaning that although the accused person did not plan or intend to kill someone else, they acted in a way that lacked regard for ordinary care and caution, resulting in the death of another person.

A person who is accused of manslaughter in Florida can be charged with a second-degree felony. A second-degree felony has a penalty of up to a $10,000 fine and up to 15 years in prison.

Statistics on Accidental Gun Deaths

Accidental gun deaths have increasingly become more likely to occur in the United States. The following is a list of statistics on accidental shootings and gun violence in America:

  • From 2006-2016, there were 6,885 people who died from unintentional shootings—495 of the incidents came from 2016.
  • According to a Harvard study, the majority of people killed in firearm accidents are under 24-years-old and are often shot by another person around the same age. In addition, the study found that the shooter was often a family member or friend.
  • There are approximately 6 million children living in the U.S. with at least one unloaded and unlocked gun, which can lead to deadly outcomes if not stored properly.
  • A 2014 study showed that unintentional shooting victims were three times more likely to live in a household with a firearm.
  • A study from 2001 indicated that people are nine times more likely—regardless of age—to die from unintentional firearm injuries when living in a State with more guns.

While owning a gun is a legal right in the state of Florida, there are some actions that a safety-conscious gun owner can put into place to avoid unintentional shootings. The following is a list of some precautions that, according to the NRA, all gun owners in Florida should follow:

  • Treat any gun as if it were loaded – All weapons should be approached like they can do harm. Don’t ever point a gun at someone else and avoid touching the trigger.
  • Learn about the gun – Training courses are offered in every state, so those who own/are looking to own a gun should partake in the classes to learn about their ammunition and how the gun works.
  • Don’t rely on the gun’s safety – A gun’s safety is put there to prevent accidents; however, accidents can still happen. Even if the safety is on, treat each weapon as if it could fire off at any moment.
  • Keep guns stored and locked – Using items like a gun safe, trigger lock, loaded chamber indicator, and similar safety methods are all advised to gun owners.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

If you or someone you love has been accused of a crime, it is in your best interest to seek out legal guidance. Criminal convictions can lead to expensive fines, imprisonment, and the potential of holding a conviction on your criminal record. The best way to protect yourself is to work with a skilled defense attorney in your area.

At Pumphrey Law Firm, our attorneys will work tirelessly to build a strong defense for your case. Don Pumphrey and his team will stand in your corner to fight for your future. Contact us today for a free consultation at (850) 681-7777 or leave an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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