Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
October 22, 2012
Just before midnight on a Sunday, a Miramar couple and their
college student daughter were preparing for bed in their home in a gated
community. Suddenly, three masked intruders tried to bull their way through the
Armed with a handgun, the 55-year-old homeowner opened fire, falling backward to
the floor as he pulled the trigger. One of the would-be robbers, hit by several
bullets, collapsed on the front porch. The other two ran for their lives.
Police called the Sept. 30 shooting justified. The man's 24-year-old daughter
said, "My father is a hero. We're just fortunate to be alive."
Yet few who have been in similar situations see themselves that way.
"I am the farthest thing from a hero," said Bruce Flanders, 59, who killed a
would-be robber while working at a convenience store five years ago. "I was
scared to death.''
For many shooters, "the common denominator is a fear that their lives are in
danger," said Boca Raton psychologist Laurence Miller. "They would say, 'I had
In the summer of 2007, there were several so-called stand your ground shootings
in South Florida. Here are the stories of three who used deadly force:
'I hope I am never in that situation again'
Hugo Villalta, 48, a fourth generation watchmaker, was behind the counter of his
Bentley's 1900 Jewelers in May when two men came inside his Fort Lauderdale
store and opened fire. Instinctively, Villalta said, he reached for the handgun
he had kept under the counter for 16 years but had never used. Behind him were
his wife and 23-year-old son.
"There were 18 shots fired in 53 seconds, and I fired 12 of them. It was a
situation where there is no time to think. The kid came in shooting, and I was
just reacting. People think you have time to think, but you don't, even though
it seems time has slowed."
Hit in the head, Damian James, 17, of Miami Gardens died hours later. Devaughan
Heard, 24, of Opa-locka, was wounded and is doing 25 years in prison.
"It changed my life," said Villalta. "I look at people differently. You think
about the time you have remaining in this life."
"In the days right afterwards, it's bad. You replay it. But time passes. We pray
every morning before we open the store. We pray for everyone, because everybody
has different situations. We all have problems."
Villalta said he has never considered getting out of the family business.
"It's not about being a jeweler," he said. "Crime is everywhere. You go 16
years, and one day something happens. You can't be afraid. You have to live."
'I was waiting to be killed'
John Lovell, 76, an ex-Marine and retired commercial pilot, was eating a late
night dinner in a Plantation sandwich shop in June when two armed men entered
and demanded money. Lovell and the lone employee complied.
But when the robbers herded them into a back room and ordered them to the floor,
Lovell said he feared execution. He was not standing his ground, he insists. "I
was waiting to be killed," he said.
When the robber closest to him seemed momentarily distracted, Lovell said he
rolled toward the floor and pulled out a concealed .45-caliber pistol from
behind his back. He fired all seven shots.
Donicio Arrindell, 22, of North Lauderdale, was killed, and accomplice Frederick
Gadson, 23, of Fort Lauderdale, was wounded.
In 2009, Gadson pleaded no contest to attempted armed robbery and the death of
his partner. He was sentenced to 12 years.
"I wasn't thinking about self-defense; I was in fear for my life," said Lovell,
now a commercial photographer. "When I got home at 4 a.m. that morning, I went
to the canal over there and got down on my knees," he said, indicating the
waterway just yards from his townhouse. "I thanked the Lord for my life, and I
prayed for the souls of the two robbers. They met their fate."
'I didn't want to kill him'
Bruce Flanders was pulling a Sunday shift at the Super Stop on Pines Boulevard
across from McArthur High School in August when two men, including one armed
with a shortgun, came in. Although the Muslim owner of the store, a friend of
Flanders, disapproved of guns, Flanders had been robbed and pistol whipped years
earlier. He had a Ruger .357 Magnum beneath the counter.
"When the guy came around a stack of beer cases with the shotgun, I dropped and
reached for the gun while yelling, 'Don't do it.' He leveled the weapon and I
fired twice," said Flanders, a machinist who still fills in when needed.
Norman L. Thompson, 21, of Miramar, was hit once in the stomach yet ran to alley
before collapsing 50 yards away. He died in surgery at Memorial Regional
Hospital in Hollywood.
His accomplice, Joe Willie Walden, 28, was found hiding in a trash bin. He was
sentenced to eight and a half years.
Months after the shooting, Flanders said Thompson's girlfriend showed up at the
store. "She wanted to find out why I killed him," he said. "I told her I didn't
want to kill him.
"To this day I have no remorse," said Flanders, who still practices at a gun
range. "At the time, my son was 23 years old. I can imagine how [Thompson's]
folks feel. But I did the right thing.
"There's no glory in it, and I don't wish it on anybody. But I say, 'Stand your
ground.' If deadly force is the only way to save your life, so be it."