Family protests ‘Stand Your Ground' decision

Shooting death of Winter Park man was justified, prosecutors say

By Mike DeForest - Investigative Reporter
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WINTER PARK, Fla. - The family of a University of Central Florida alumni who was gunned down while attempting to enter a stranger’s apartment, possibly by mistake, is asking Gov. Rick Scott to appoint an independent prosecutor to review the shooting.

Ryan Modell, 32, was shot and killed March 20, 2016, outside a Fort Myers apartment building.

[READ MORE: Fatal South Fort Myers 'stand your ground' incident spawns questions, governor request]

Modell, who spent the day drinking with friends, may have been attempting to find his girlfriend’s unit located in the same apartment complex, reports show.

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James Steven Taylor told detectives Modell tried to get inside his apartment after he had been banging on the front door and windows. Taylor claims he shut the door on Modell’s foot, injuring the Winter Park man’s toe.

Armed with a handgun, Taylor told investigators he followed Modell outside, where he claims Modell charged toward him.

While standing in a neighboring driveway, Taylor fatally shot Modell in the chest at close range, authorities said.

“I thought the kid was gonna kill me,” Taylor told investigators.

Following a year-long investigation, Lee County Assistant State Attorney Dan Fineberg concluded that Taylor was immune from prosecution under Florida’s "Stand Your Ground" law.  

That law allows citizens to use force without retreating in order to defend themselves or others from a real or perceived threat.

Modell’s father, Sandy, strongly disagrees with the state attorney office’s findings.

“That night, he made a mistake. But that kind of mistake should have been a disorderly, disturbing the peace kind of issue, not a killing,” said Sandy Modell.

Attorney Mark O’Mara, who successfully argued that George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense in 2012, represents Modell’s family.

O’Mara has sent a letter to Gov. Rick Scott asking for the appointment of a independent prosecutor to present the facts of the case to a grand jury.

“Taylor pursued Ryan far away from the threshold to his door, and that was wholly inappropriate,” said O’Mara.  “And it led to the death of a young man completely unnecessarily.”

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