Was Nippers shooting justifiable force?

State Attorney's Office determining whether to file charges

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – It's been five days since a Jacksonville man was shot and killed in the parking lot of Nippers Beach Grille in Jacksonville Beach, and questions remain about why the shooter hasn't been identified or charged.

Attorney Gene Nichols, who's not affiliated with the case, said it's likely that the State Attorney's Office is trying to determine if the shooting was justifiable.

Witnesses told News4Jax the victim, 40-year-old Zachariah Tipton (pictured below), was involved in a violent fight seconds before he was shot and killed.

Jacksonville Beach detectives have only said they are waiting on the State Attorney's Office to decide whether to file charges against the shooter.

The shooting happened in front of hundreds of people, according to police. Shots were fired outside Nippers, resulting in Tipton's death.

Zachariah Tipton's photo on wall of Redneck Yacht Club

Witnesses said the shooter surrendered immediately. Nichols said he was likely questioned and released while prosecutors determine if he fired in self-defense.

"If the State Attorney's Office believes the shooter acted in justifiable form, he won't be taken into custody," Nichols said. "If he wasn't arrested that night, then they're probably not going to be arrested until a warrant is issued by a judge."

Detectives said they are interviewing more than 200 witnesses, and Nichols said the State Attorney's Office is likely talking to the witnesses, too.

"What they don't want to do is have different entities interviewing other witnesses," Nichols said. "We saw this in the (George) Zimmerman case where four or five come in, and after time there are changes in the stories."

Nichols said it could be weeks or even months until prosecutors make a decision. Several other recent justifiable homicide cases in Jacksonville took months to complete.

It took state attorneys eight months to clear Jeneen Peterson in the death of her ex-boyfriend, who she shot and killed as he tried to hit her with his car. And it took seven months to clear Juan Cintron in the shooting of Everette Douglas.

In both cases, the names of the shooters weren't revealed until the final report was issued.

"This is the process, and you don't want to hear too much about this until they've made a decision," Nichols said.

The State Attorney's Office has declined to comment on the case.

About the Author:

Tarik anchors the 4, 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. weekday newscasts and reports with the I-TEAM.