Attorney: Teen's SUV left scene after shooting

Dunn pleads not guilty to 1st-degree murder charge

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The new attorney for Michael Dunn, the man accused of shooting into an SUV and killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis last month after an argument over loud music, said Monday the teen's SUV left the scene, then returned after the shooting.

Cory Strolla spoke to reporters after Dunn appeared in court to enter a not-guilty plea on an upgraded charge of first-degree murder.

A grand jury indicted the 46-year-old last week on the charge and also handed down three counts of attempted first-degree murder because there were three other occupants in the SUV, along with a charge of shooting into an occupied vehicle.

Police said Dunn fired into the red Dodge Durango that Davis (pictured, below) and three of his friends -- Tevin Thompson, Leland Brunson and Tommie Stornes -- were sitting in at a Gate gas station in Baymeadows. Dunn's lawyers are considering using a "stand your ground" defense because they say the boys pointed a shotgun at Dunn. Police have not confirmed that claim, nor did they find a weapon in the SUV.

Jordan Davis
Jordan Davis

Strolla said the SUV carrying Davis and the other teens left the scene after the shooting, then went back. Even if no weapon is ever found, the claim will allow the defense to argue that if there were a gun, the teens had time to get rid of it before police arrived.

"I fully expect the evidence to show that that SUV took off and left the scene and came back," Strolla said. "As a matter of fact, from the reports I've seen, that red SUV pulled right back in to the same exact spot it was."

"The ballistics will show that if a gun was fired from just a few feet away from where my client's car was, and those boys told the police they never left the scene? That's obviously a false report to police," Strolla added. "When a vehicle leaves the scene as everybody knows, the evidence is completely changed, the crime scene is changed."

John M. Phillips, the attorney for the Davis family, also confirmed he's heard the SUV left the scene.

"What would you do if someone was shooting 10 rounds at you?" he said.

The state attorney's office didn't offer any confirmation as to the movement of the SUV that night, only saying the facts will come out when the discovery material is released.

Strolla said the case will come down to character and credibility.

"Our position is that Michael Dunn has character. He has credibility," Strolla said. "He is a law-abiding citizen. He has never been involved in an act like this in his life. He's never had to draw his weapon. He's never had to fire his weapon."

"I've heard all the talking heads in the national news and regional news talking about, 'How could he do that? He did this. He did that,'" Strolla added. "Unless you walk in that man's shoes, you're put in a position where you believe somebody is about to put a shotgun at your head and pull the trigger and get out of a car to do it, then no one has the right to say, 'Why did he do something?' That's going to be for the experts and that's going to be for the jury."

Investigators say after opening fire, Dunn got in his car and drove back to his hotel. He wasn't arrested until the following day at his home in Brevard County.

Strolla said Dunn is "in as good a spirits as can be, knowing you're charged with first-degree murder for defending yourself and believing that somebody is trying to kill you."

"The evidence will show, and what we believe we're going to show, that these gentlemen in the car not only gave verbal threats of death, but were attempting to get out of the car to attack Mr. Dunn. That's when he fired the shots," Strolla said.

Davis' parents were also in the courtroom Monday for Dunn's arraignment. It was the first time they've seen him in person.

"You just feel like, I want him to look over at me, I wanted him to look at me to understand that he's taken my life away, taken Jordan's mother away from him, and I just want to let him know I wanted him to really stare at me, which he didn't do," Davis' father, Ron Davis, said. "I want him to really stare at me and know that we're his parents and we're here for Jordan, and as callous as he may think that the act is, it wasn't callous to us, that it was a great deal -- it meant a great deal to us."

"I've seen him on television many many times, but to see him physically standing there before us, I feel so sorry for him," added Lucia McBath, Jordan Davis' mother. "I feel so sorry for him because he has to bear this burden for the rest of his life."

Dunn's next pretrial date is Feb. 6. He's being held in the Duval County jail without bail.

Prosecutors said they're not seeking the death penalty.