Raul Rodriguez: When “Stand Your Ground” isn’t “Stand Your Ground” and Caught on Tape

As if there’s a need to further complicate arguments in the case of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. Out of Texas and thrust-ed into the spotlight, is the case of retired firefighter, Raul Rodriguez. This week in Houston, Rodriguez is on trial for the 2010 shooting death of Kelly Danaher, then a Houston-area school teacher, after a confrontation in Danaher’s driveway over loud music played at a party which Rodriguezz had already lodged a 911 complaint.

HOUSTON (AP) — When music at a neighbor’s evening party got too loud for his liking, Raul Rodriguez showed up to complain, carrying a gun and a video camera.

As a verbal confrontation unfolded, the retired Houston-area firefighter told a police dispatcher by phone that he feared for his life and was “standing his ground,” a reference that calls to mind the law at the center of the Trayvon Martin slaying in Florida in February.

[…] Prosecutors call Rodriguez an aggressor who could have safely left his neighbor’s driveway anytime. His defense attorneys insist Texas law still gave him the right to defend himself, even if it meant taking a life.

In a 22-minute video that he recorded that night, Rodriguez can be heard talking to a police dispatcher after walking over to the home of Kelly Danaher to complain about the noise. Both men lived in Huffman, an unincorporated area about 30 miles northeast of Houston.

Rodriguez told the dispatcher he feared for his life. He can also be heard telling Danaher and two other men to keep the noise down. One of the men, who had apparently seen Rodriguez’s gun, cursed at Rodriguez and suggested that he was going to go inside Danaher’s home and retrieve his own weapon.

“Look, I will defend myself, sir. … It’s about to get out of hand, sir. Please help me. Please help me, sir. My life is in danger now,” Rodriguez can be heard saying on the recording, which was played for jurors this week. The images are mostly dark or in shadow.

“I’m standing my ground here. Now these people are going to go try and kill me.”

Rodriguez, 47, eventually tells the dispatcher, “Look I’m not losing to these people anymore.” A loud cackling laugh is then heard before someone appears to reach for the camera and a gun goes off. That’s when the video abruptly ends.

Danaher, 36, who taught physical education at an elementary school, was killed. The two other men were wounded.

Checkout the following coverage of the story:

So here’s the question: Do you think Raul Rodriguez was justified in pulling the trigger?

One of the wounded men, a Houston firefighter named Ricky Johnson, told jurors Friday that he and his friends were not at fault, saying Rodriguez “started the process by coming with a gun.”

Prosecutor Kelli Johnson has portrayed Rodriguez, who fought fires in the Houston suburb of Baytown, as the one who was looking for a fight.

Kenneth Ellis, who lived across the street from Rodriguez, testified Friday that on the night of the shooting, he saw that Rodriguez was “agitated and angry.” As he left his home, he was saying “Shut up. Shut up.”

[…]One of Rodriguez’s attorneys, William Stradley, tried to demonstrate that his client was in fear for his life when one of the men lunged at him, and he had less than a second to respond.

The defense sought to put the burden on the three other men, saying they caused the confrontation to escalate.

“Do you take any responsibility for what happened,” Stradley asked Johnson.

“Of course I do,” replied Johnson, who on the video can be seen being restrained by the two other men before the shooting.

Texas’ version of a stand-your-ground law, known as the Castle Doctrine, was revised in 2007 to expand the right to use deadly force. The new version allows people to defend themselves not only in their homes but also in workplaces or vehicles. It also says a person using force cannot provoke the attacker or be involved in criminal activity at the time.

While Rodriguez was not in his own home or vehicle or business when the shooting happened, Houston criminal defense attorney Grant Scheiner said he believes the law still applies because the 2007 revision gave people wider latitude on when they can use deadly force. Rodriguez had a concealed handgun permit.

Personally, I think Rodriguez was in fact justified in using deadly force to defend himself. Of course the circumstances of this case are very different from that of the case involving George Zimmerman. However, there seems to be some similarities which begs to question: Was Zimmerman the aggressor? To that question it’s easy to say that he was by virtue of disregarding police dispatcher instructions; but, I think the same can be said for Rodriguez in this case. After calling the police, it can be argued that he shouldn’t have gone to his neighbors house. Even so, like Zimmerman, what he did was not illegal, and he broke no laws in doing so. So again I ask: did Rodriguez still have the right to defend himself by using deadly force?