MIAMI
08/14/2013 03:51 pm ET

Florida Sheriffs' Stand Your Ground Support Not Unanimous After All

sheriff.org

Staunch "Stand Your Ground" supporters in Florida were encouraged last week when the Florida Sheriffs Association announced a unanimous vote of support for the controversial self-defense law.

The problem? The sheriff association's support for the law, which had eliminated an individual duty to retreat, didn't include every sheriff in Florida.

Only 57 of the 67 FSA members were present for the vote at last week's FSA conference in Marco Island. Some of those sheriffs are now expressing their opposition to the association's stance.

"Had I attended the FSA conference, I would have voted against the FSA statement on the Stand Your Ground law," Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel told the Sun Sentinel. "I support an individual's right to use armed self-defense when faced with the immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury, and without requiring any duty to retreat in one's own home. However, if there is a safe opportunity in other settings to retreat and de-escalate potentially deadly violence, it should be done. For this reason, I support legislative changes to more narrowly restrict the use of the Stand Your Ground defense."

Israel told the paper he wasn't at the conference because he was attending "National Night Out Against Crime" events.

An FSA spokesperson told The Huffington Post that the organization did not keep track of sheriffs in attendance for the vote Tuesday nor did it utilize a sign-in sheet.

In late July, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) had said that before he considered any changes to Stand Your Ground, he needed to hear what the Tampa Tribune called "a consistent, unified message from law enforcement officials." The FSA historically has been neutral on the law.

Now, state Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fort Walton Beach), who will chair a "Stand Your Ground" hearing this fall, has called the FSA's support "enlightening."

In addition to Israel, however, at least two other Florida sheriffs have come out against the FSA's stance, calling for the self-defense law to be tightened when applied outside the home.

"The Sheriff supports the right of citizens to employ deadly force with no duty to retreat in order to defend themselves while in their homes or vehicles," a spokesman for Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson told the Daytona Beach News Journal. "However, when out in the open and facing a threat, the Sheriff believes citizens should attempt to retreat if possible before using lethal force."

Likewise, Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre agreed that the law should revert back to the more-limited castle doctrine, which focuses on the individual's right to self-defense in his home and was Florida's standard before Stand Your Ground was enacted in 2005.

"When legislation confuses people, that begs for repeal," Manfre told the News Journal.

A spokesperson for Miami-Dade Police Director J.D. Patterson confirmed that the director attended the FSA conference, but his staff was unable to say specifically whether he was there for the Stand Your Ground vote.

Click below for some of Florida's more shocking Stand Your Ground cases in which the shooter walked free:

PHOTO GALLERY
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BEFORE YOU GO
Florida's Shocking Stand Your Ground Acquittals
PHOTO GALLERY
Florida's Shocking Stand Your Ground Acquittals

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