In Orange City, Florida, a road-rage incident results in two lost lives and a lifetime of agony for many others. What we can learn from this avoidable incident?
First, it’s important to point out that the incident is only about a few days old. Therefore we likely don’t know all the details. However, we know quite a bit about the actions of people involved in the fatal shooting on November 20th.
Some in the news will use this event to promote further the idea that folks with guns are irrational and dangerous by default. Therefore the government should curtail people’s access to firearms. Other’s view this incident as proof that people use firearms to protect lives. After all, the shooter appears to have acted in self-defense.
I’m not concerned with supporting or debunking either viewpoint.
I prefer to go through the timeline of events as we know them and see if we, as citizen defenders, can learn anything. I’ve found that typically, there are some good, questionable, and horrible decisions in these incidents. And we see this play out in this event as well.
Just after 5:00 PM on the 20th, a man called Andrew Derr rode his motorcycle in the 1400 block of N. Volusia Avenue. Sara Morales, the driver of a blue Kia vehicle, intentionally struck Morales with her car. Derr was uninjured.
Morales left the scene, driving South on U.S. Highway 17-92. According to reports, Derr and two third-party, unnamed witnesses followed Morales and caught up with her at the intersection of 17-92 and Wisconsin Avenue. The three attempted to keep Morales from leaving the scene.
The potential crime is at least a traffic collision, and at most, and assault with a deadly weapon (Morales’ car).
We don’t know what methods Derr and the other involved people used in their attempts to stop Morales. However, we do know that Morales refuses to stop and flees the scene.
Pursue or Stay:
At this point, it would be good to pause and reflect on what you may do in a similar situation.
Derr certainly has reason to pursue Morales. It’s unclear if he knew she intentionally hit him, but she certainly at least is attempting to flee the scene of a traffic collision. In these incidents, where no one is injured, it may be wise to obtain information such as vehicle tag number, color, make, the model direction of travel, and a driver’s description. Then remain on the scene and call the police.
Another option would be to do the same as mentioned above but follow along at a distance.
If you’re one of the witnesses, you could undoubtedly continue alongside Derr. However, consider that any involvement exposes you to an increased possibility of danger.
In this case, both Derr and the witnesses choose to follow Morales, although it’s unclear if they pursued her at high speeds or a distance.
Point of Contact:
Morales drives home while Derr and the witnesses follow. While following Morales, it seems that either Derr or one of the witnesses called the police and reported the hit and run traffic collision.
Upon reaching her home, Morales heads inside.
Derr and the witnesses arrive at Morales’ home and stop on the road at the driveway. They are still on the phone with the police dispatcher.
Morales obtains a handgun from inside her home. It is unclear when, but Morales also calls 911 to report aggressive men are threatening her.
Morales emerges from the house to confront Derr and the witnesses.
On the released 911 call recording from either the witnesses or Derr, we can hear Morales screaming:
You three men, you followed me, leave me alone
According to Derr and the witnesses, Morales confronts them, pointing the handgun at them in front of the house. Derr, a concealed carry permit holder, perceives Morales as posing a deadly-force threat, draws and shoots his gun, striking Morales.
Morales who is 5 months pregnant and her unborn child die from their gunshot wounds.
Post Shooting Decisions:
Police ultimately arrive on the scene, and we see on the released body cam video that Derr is cooperative with police commands. He is lying face down, prone out on the ground, and we don’t see the gun in his hand. Police handcuff Derr while he makes the following spontaneous statements:
I’m not moving. Please don’t shoot me. That girl tried to kill me. She pointed a gun at me. I’m so sorry
As stated, Morales and her unborn child died. Whatsmore she leaves behind an 11-year old child and a fiancé.
While it appears that police have determined Derr’s actions to be legal self-defense, he now must live with the consequences of his actions.
I regularly hear people say something like; I’d rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6. In other words, they would rather be alive and tried in court than dead. I get the sentiment. But real life doesn’t work that way, and quite often, there are ways to avoid both court and death.
Sure at the point, Morales pointed the gun at Derr and the witnesses; Derr was justified legally to use deadly force to defend himself and the other two people with him. But given a “do-over,” I imagine Derr and the witnesses would choose a different course of action. The pain of knowing your actions resulted in the death of a woman and a child doesn’t go away entirely because police don’t charge you with a crime.
Is it possible that even in being wrong in striking Derr with her vehicle, Morales was justified in being afraid of 3 men who tried to keep her from leaving the scene? I think so. But her actions following that were associated factors in what ultimately happened. She could have considered driving to the police station or continuing to drive while speaking to the police dispatcher. She could have gone until police arrived and only then stopped her vehicle. She even could have stayed inside her home, where it was safe.
In no way is this point meant to minimize the actions of Morales. But, unfortunately, her decisions directly lead to her death and the death of her child. When she exited the house armed with the gun, she could no longer reasonably claim she felt threatened by the three men. After all, she left her home’s safety and security to challenge three men she said she feared. Unfortunately, I see this sometimes happen when people are overly confident because they are armed. Her family now must live with the results of those decisions.
Something to consider is your home defense strategy. Perhaps if Morales had a home-defense plan in place, she would have stayed put inside her home while she waited for police to arrive.
Here is a link to our course titled Complete Home Defense