Commentary: Four men in Florida stand their ground and two of them wind up dead

You miss so much when you're dead. When you are 17 and your life is snuffed out in an instant, it means you will never go to your high school prom or see your girlfriend again or graduate or go to college. It means you will never kiss your mother good night or show off your tattoo inked with her name. You will never see another sunrise or sunset or eat another bag of Skittles or drink another ice tea on a hot summer day.

You are 17, and you are Trayvon Martin, dead by the hand of neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman, who told 911 operators that you were "suspicious" while walking one night through his Sanford, Fla., gated community. Suspicious while walking. Used to be "driving while black" or "driving while brown," which is what I told a Latino friend who is an American citizen that owns his own company, when cops stopped him last year, just around the corner from his home in Baltimore.

I went to a rally in Baltimore last week to support Trayvon's parents in their search for justice in what happened the evening of Feb. 26, when their unarmed son was shot dead. I stood on the plaza of Baltimore's City Hall with 1,200 others in hopes of moving forward the possible arrest of Zimmerman, who claims self-defense in league with Florida's 2005 stand your ground law, which essentially says that retreat from thorny situations is optional. However, the law was designed to protect self and family from home and vehicle invasions. Now standing your ground seems completely subjective.

But I also would have rallied for David "DJ" James, a 41-year-old white man who was killed in September 2010 in front of his 8-year-old daughter by his neighbor Trevor Dooley, a 69-year-old black man. Dooley was ticked off that James had defended a skateboarder in the park across from Dooley's house, when a sign in the park said no skateboarding. Armed with a .32 caliber semiautomatic, Dooley claimed that his life was being threatened, although for the life of me, I cannot understand why anyone would show up with a gun in such a circumstance unless the wearer's intention was to intimidate.

According to and other Internet sources, Dooley was angry because a teenage boy was skateboarding on a basketball court in the park. James, who was shooting hoops with his daughter, stood up for the teen, and then saw the gun when Dooley raised his shirt. James tried to disarm him. As the men fought, Dooley shot James in the heart, killing him.

Both Dooley and Zimmerman have concealed weapons permits, but unlike Zimmerman, who, as of this writing, has not been arrested, Dooley was charged with manslaughter. However, because Dooley claims that James was the aggressor, there may not be a trial since his actions are protected under SYG.

For the sake of argument, let's say that all four of these people — Trayvon, Zimmerman, Dooley and James were standing their ground — Trayvon, in the sense that he did not answer if Zimmerman asked him what he was doing in "his" neighborhood. After all, Trayvon would have been under no obligation to respond to a stranger following him in a car and then on foot in the dark, or even during daylight. Meanwhile, James stood his ground by defending the skateboarder, and Dooley stood his ground in his rumble with James.

Anybody besides me see anything wrong with that SYG statute? Fear and shooters can be a deadly combination.

Trayvon is dead and James, a husband, veteran and father of two young children, is dead, joining scores of claims of justifiable homicide in Florida that have taken place since 2005. In 2010, SYG defenses were used in 93 of more than 100 cases involving 65 deaths. In most of the cases, it worked.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad