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The shocking racial Stand Your Ground-related case in Port St. Joe

@MarcACaputo

As Florida’s Stand Your Ground self-defense law goes on trial in the court of public opinion, more lethal force cases – especially those involving race -- are again making national headlines.

There’s the case of Marissa Alexander, sentenced to 20 years in prison for firing a warning shot at her husband. And there’s the case of Michael Dunn, accused of first-degree murder in the July 30, 2012 shooting death of an unarmed teenager. Mother Jones branded it the "Next Trayvon Martin Case."

Here’s a shocking case has been barely mentioned: The killing of a 32-year-old black man named Everett Gant by 60-year-old Walter Butler in Port St. Joe, an old Florida Panhandle town.

Butler, who allegedly used the n-word to describe both the victim and a child in the neighborhood, is seeking immunity from prosecution under Stand Your Ground. He has a court hearing in September.

The prosecutor, Bob Sombathy, said Butler does not have much to stand on. He said Butler, charged with second-degree murder, "laid in wait" with a .22 rifle for Gant, who was coming over with a friend to discuss Butler's racist comments to a kid in the neighborhood.

"Someone opened the door and Butler shot him in the eye," Sombathy said. "There were no real words exchanged, no threats."

Sombathy said two people witnessed the incident (one inside Butler's apartment and another person with Gant). Here’s the text of the initial affidavit from the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office:

"The below signed affiant states that through his investigation and interview with the suspect, Walton Henry Butler, Butler did admit shooting Everett Gant in the head with a .22 cal. Rifle which caused series [sic] bodily injury. During an interview with Walter Butler he said he shot a “nigger.”

"There had been an incident earlier in the day when Pamela Rogers came to Butler’s apartment with a child and the defendant called the child a nigger and Ms. Rogers became upset and left the residence. Through the investigation it was learned that the defendant had made several racial remarks to the black children in the apartment complex. The victim Everett Gant went to the defendant’s residence to talk with him about the comments when he was shot. The victim Everett Gant was shot in the face causing great bodily harm he was transported to Bay Medical Center where he was listed in stable condition.

"After Walt Butler shot Everett Gant he stated he shut the sliding glass door with Everett Gant lying outside the door, called 911 then finished cooking supper, sat at the kitchen table and began eating.

"When Sheriff Nugent arrived on scene he made contact with Butler by phone, Butler told him to come in he was eating dinner and had put up the gun. Butler was sitting at the table and acted as if it was an inconvenience when he was asked to stand up and handcuffs were put on. He said he did not understand the problem. He had only shot a nigger.

"On September 17, 2012 the victim Everett Gant died from complication from injuries obtained in the above incident."

Caveats: We don't know all the facts of the case, and just because Butler pleads Stand Your Ground doesn't mean he's entitled not to be prosecuted.

But there are grounds (which now sound flimsy, according to the prosecutor) for Butler to plead Stand Your Ground. And even if he doesn't get immunity, Stand Your Ground is still self defense in Florida. It appears on standard jury instruction forms.

From the narrative above, it sounds like Gant was on the porch of Butler's dwelling outside the door and, if Butler somehow successfully (again, it sounds unlikely) argues that Gant tried to enter the residence, the standard jury instructions for Stand Your Ground could give him a defense:

"A person who unlawfully and by force enters or attempts to enter another’s [dwelling] [residence] [occupied vehicle] is presumed to be doing so with the intent to commit an unlawful act involving force or violence....

"'Dwelling” means a building or conveyance of any kind, including any attached porch, whether the building or conveyance is temporary or permanent or mobile or immobile, which has a roof over it, including a tent, and is designed to be occupied by people lodging therein at night."

"The strongest part of the defense case is that Butler is home, and if you believe what he says – that he was threatened by a man who wanted to barge in his home and Butler acted in self defense – then he has a case," Sombathy said. "But the facts don’t play out that way. The witnesses don’t agree."

"This wasn’t a Trayvon Martin deal. Butler was arrested," he added.

Sombathy said he's actually looking forward to a Stand Your Ground hearing because the defendant will have to take the stand, where he can be examined by prosecutors who can use his statements in trial. The fact that a defendant might have to testify in a Stand Your Ground hearing gives a clue as to why Trayvon's shooter, George Zimmerman, didn't request a hearing.

"There's a chance George Zimmerman didn't want to have to testify in court," Sombathy said. "The burden of proof for immunity is on the defendant, so the defendant in some cases has to take the stand."

Beyond the peculiarities of Stand Your Ground More broadly, the case could be a temptation for some to brand the pretty little town of Port St. Joe as a bastion of racists because it's in Deep South Florida's Panhandle. And indeed, Port St. Joe is the town where Freddie Pitts and Wilbert Lee, two black men, were wrongly convicted for a murder for which they were nearly executed. They were exonerated thanks in great part due to the Miami Herald's Gene Miller.

Since then, Port St. Joe has gone back to being a sleepy pretty town that only made the national news involved a 2005 bull-shark attack on a Tennessee kid who was surfcasting with bait in his pocket.

A mutual acquaintance who knows the victim, Gant, in this case, said she wants the news media to give "Everett credit for being a well-loved, well-respected young man whose story didn't make the national news and didn't inflame the racist indignation of so many who are so upset today. It might be a good story to tell of how there is so much love shared by many in this country, no matter the race, creed, or color. As bad as things are in certain situations, I want to continue to believe there is still much good too."

** Note: Post is updated with Sombathy's comments, headline changed changed to call this a Stand Your Ground "related" case

Comments

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Can't take anymore

Butler's racist attitude is very common in Northwest Florida. If history is any guide, his claim of standing his ground will hold and he will never go to trial for his mayhem. Gulf County is presently struggling to develop its tourist economy and its port facilities. If this story gets national news exposure they can forget any businesses moving there and damn few tourists.

none

I think "does" is supposed to be "doesn't" in paragraph five.

Jim Varian

When there are no witnesses or conclusive physical evidence, stand your ground/self defense claims may be viable whether they are valid or not. Assuming the person shot does not survive, the only witness is the shooter.

Michael Dunn's prosecution won't be the next Trayvon Martin case. There are multiple witnesses and some physical evidence that will be hard to explain away. When Dunn is convicted (or perhaps pleads), there won't be room for doubt about whether justice was done.

denise

Please have someone to proof your article. The errors makes for a huge difference in which way the article reads for the audience.

Just a suggestion.

Tommie Sharratt

I think someone needs to get the national news channel involved in this. It needs to get some exposure.

sick of it

The fact that there indeed WAS a witness in Walts apartment has provided proof (along with the blood of Everett on the carpet next to the sliding glass door) that Everett had indeed stepped into the apartment. The Lady previously mentioned in your article had warned Walt prior to Everett's arrival that when her boyfriend got home (Everett) he would take care of Walt. Now, me personally, I don't care if your green, purple, black, or blue. If you are seven foot tall and enter my residence with intentions of harming me, I'm going to take whatever force necessary to defend myself. Sure, Walt could have aimed for another body part, but then he would have to worry about Everett's method of retaliation. All in how you look at it. I know both individuals and have a close relationship with each of them. Everett was indeed a sweet person but when he got angry he was crazy. No telling what he was told by the girlfriend. Everything is turned into some huge racial ordeal. Its rediculous. Walt got a black woman pregnant who later aborted, about 10 yes ago. He must have really hated her. :/ Be cautious as to what you read through the media. Many parts of the given statement are incorrect, such as the fact that dinner was cooking and taken out of then oven laying on the kitchen counter....not being eaten. I know this BC it was still there two days layer when I went by his apartment as his belongings were being removed. Just more of the minority community trying to get people to feel sorry for them and play victim. Its about time this mess stops!

missing a friend

To Sick of It......

You say Everett was crazy when he got angry. You also claim to know him personally. You must not have known the Everett I grew up with and went to school with, and was really really close too. Mr. Gant was going over there to talk. I know this because I know numerous people who live in the apartment complex he had just moved too. I know this because as mentioned, I knew him personally and knew his parents personally. This is a racial case and if you want to be blind to that fact you are crazy. It is ten times more racial than Trayvon Martin. Butler shot my friend in the head and, according to Butlers own words and witness confessions, he then sat back down to eat his dinner. When the cops showed up, he didn't understand why he was being arrested. After all, to his sick opinion, he'd just shot a n***er. In his mind, that's A okay to do. Everyone that knows Butler knows he is a racist pig. It is a huge racial ordeal. Everett was going over to talk to Walt because Walt was calling children racial slurs. I repeat, he was calling KIDS racial slurs, not Everett personally. He was verbally abusing children. Everett just wanted to tell him that wasn't cool. How can you say this case isn't about race????

I miss Everett every day. Yes, he was six feet tall and built like Arnold. He was six feet of nothing but teddy bear. He had a little girl that's going to grow up now never knowing how awesome a person her father was. You are also apparently not that familiar with St. Joe, a town still separated by railroad tracks. We've taken huge strides over the years, but there is still parts of our community on both sides that have a whole lot of hate in their hearts. You make me SICK saying this case wasn't about race.

For the record, I'm white. I'm a lily white Irish girl with freckles. It isn't just the minority in St. Joe pissed about this, it's a good portion of Gulf County. You need to check your own facts.

Sadbuttrue

I live IN PSJ and feel for both families. I know the Butler family personally, and anyone who knows Walt Butler, knows that the alcohol has eaten away at his brain for years and, that he really "not all there". I will have to agree that the racist comments do sound like him, but it also sounds like most of the people I have met who are local "Gulf County good ole Boys". I moved here from up north and have never in my life seen such racism anywhere as I have here.

b de v

Yeah.

"One hundred thirty-three people in the state of Florida have used a 'Stand Your Ground' defense. Of these claims, 73 were considered 'justified' (55 percent), while 39 resulted in criminal convictions and 21 cases are still pending.

"Forty-four African Americans in the state of Florida have claimed a 'Stand Your Ground' defense. Of these claims, 24 were considered 'justified' (55 percent), while 11 resulted in convictions and nine cases are still pending.

"Of the 76 white people who have used the defense, 40 were considered 'justified' (less than 53 percent), while 25 were convicted and 11 cases are still pending.

b de v

FORTY-FOUR AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE STATE OF FLORIDA HAVE CLAIMED A 'STAND YOUR GROUND' DEFENSE. OF THESE CLAIMS, 24 WERE CONSIDERED 'JUSTIFIED' (55 PERCENT)

b de v

OF THE 76 WHITE PEOPLE WHO HAVE USED THE DEFENSE, 40 WERE CONSIDERED 'JUSTIFIED' (LESS THAN 53 PERCENT)

b de v

HELLO?

Born and raised in a racist town

Port st joe is a racist town,blacks and whites are separated by railroad tracks and bridges,Everrette is a very respectful,church going man,has never had any type of violent activity in his life,he never had an attitude towards anyone he was raised way better than that.What happened to him has been a tragedy in our community,we want justice,we want justice for the City of Port St.Joe,we care for our own ,we could care less about new jobs,tourist development,the Port,we care for our people.

Andrea White

You want justice for your own, meaning the white people. Not once did you mention justice for the minorities, or even the man who was murdered in cold blood. If someone really was a church going Christian man, he would not use the n word. He wouldn't call kids the n word either. No where in the Bible does it say it's okay to crap on and murder people who are darker than you are. No where. So save your pitiful attempts at defending this ignorant, intolerant, murderer. "What happened to him has been a tragedy in our community..."? He's alive. He will probably get away with murder if the jury is as racist as you are. Where is your feelings of tragedy for the man shot through the eye without so much as a word uttered from his mouth. You are what's wrong with the South, you and this other HypoChristian are what gives Christianity a bad name. Guaranteed you'd be raising hell and high water if this black man shot your saintly friend in the eye and then sat down to eat like it was nothing. Go raise that confederate flag and never move where your ignorant racist true white colors shine through. And BTW I am white too and you make me sick. God help the kids you raise.

CaneRock

You want justice for your own, meaning the white people. Not once did you mention justice for the minorities, or even the man who was murdered in cold blood. If someone really was a church going Christian man, he would not use the n word. He wouldn't call kids the n word either. No where in the Bible does it
say it's okay to crap on and murder people who are darker than you are. No where. So save your pitiful attempts at defending this ignorant, intolerant, murderer. "What happened to him has been a tragedy in our community..."? He's alive. He will probably get away with murder if the jury is as racist as you are. Where is your feelings of tragedy for the man shot through the eye without so much as a word uttered from his mouth. You are what's wrong with the South, you and this other HypoChristian are what gives Christianity a bad name. Guaranteed you'd be raising hell and high water if this black man shot your saintly friend in the eye and then sat down to eat like it was nothing. Go raise that confederate flag and never move where your ignorant racist true white colors shine through. And BTW I am white too and you make me sick. God help the kids you raise.

Posted by: Andrea White | July 17, 2013 at 09:18 PM

Andrea White..."Born and raised in a racist town" was talking about Everett Gant, NOT Walter Butler.

CaneRock

^^^^^^^"Born and raised" was speaking FAVORABLY about Everett Gant...that is.

Raised in a racist town

Same team Andrea white I'm from the north side

Lovemycommunity

Andrea slow down and read it again. The Church going man he spoke about (Everett)was the one who was shot. He was respected here in St. Joe. There is no one here cheering on his murderer. I am assuming that is the defense he is trying to use nothing more. I don't think that anyone around here believes he has a case. This community came together black and white praying that he (Everett) would recover. The bad thing about these "post a comment" is people who have no clue to what the facts are start shouting out their opinions.

Courtney Craft

As a white young female in the community I will flat out tell you he is guilty. He's made it known he's racist & crazy for that matter. This is a racist case no way around it. And no St Joe is not a racist town. The railroads have been removed, which for the record were used for the Mills when they were still around, & a connecting road was built into what is called "North" side for that reason, to show its not segregated. Just like with any other small town southern town you will find racism in some people, but that isn't the majority. The outside world doesn't know that when I was in high school our black quarterback won us State, that we have had black homecoming queens or that I went to nursing school with Everett's sisters & couldn't tell you a bad thing about them. It's like any other old town, the old people are mostly racist because that's how they were raised, but that's not the case anymore with the younger population. And if the northerners don't like how things are then don't move here. You moved to our town remember....but the facts are its cold blooded murder & the fact that they would even attempt to use the stand your ground act is sickening. The locals care nothing about the tourism or how it looks. We want justice for Everett & his family.

Racismishere

Correction: I meant the bullet in his head wasn't meant for him, it was meant for someone else. But I pray for justice cause he was a nice person. Despite his flaws some ppl want to pick out, he still was a peaceful and humble young man. People in St. Joe did come together during this tragedy, but still there's a lot more work in progress that needs to be done cause some people are not going to change.(only God can help us to come together as a community in Port St. Joe)

KnowTheFactsJack

This case probably wont make it to trial after Walt loses the Stand Your Ground hearing. He will try to strike a plea deal. The town is separated because of history. The Northside Community was established before abolishment of segregation and was where black mill workers lived. The people of that community know it as home and have chosen to stay there. Racism will always be present, in every town, in every state, in both colors.
There are as many racist people in the Northside Community as there anywhere else. This case is different than State Vs. Zimmerman, there was no probable cause for even a arrest in that case. State Vs. Dunn is just a cold blooded killing over loud music where the victim happens to be black and the killer happens to be white. State Vs Butler is a hate crime. I wont get into specifics but neither above descriptions of the crime were correct. In most cases race becomes a issue because of political agenda based parties make ot a issue to further their cause. Which is money. The Sharpton's and Jackson's are little more than racist biggots. Just imagine both as white men and insert white into their speeches where appropriate and they are no more than Klan Wizards. The media needs to stay out of this case so it doesnt become a Pitts and Lee case. Who, if the author of this story would read the facts of that case, would maybe consider that two murderers were wrongfully pardoned by Gov. Askew to further his political career.

spreadlovenothate

Everett was a sweet caring man. Always willing to do anything and everything for you. Could he be intimidating when he was mad, oh yes he could be, but you rarely ever seen that side of him. (I can be pretty intimidating also when you mess with my babies) I do not personally know Butler, but I generally try to stay away from people with that "old school mentality". They do nothing but spread hatred and bad karma. I do know what I read and that is simply this..... he was cursing at the children of the apt complex always, using racial slurs and other words that the children should have never heard. Everett being himself, always wanting to protect those who could not protect themselves, went to talk to Butler about this...but before Everett could open his mouth, Butler opens the door and shoots him in the head. Bam no questions, no comments, and he closes his door to leave this MAN laying there to die. From the words of our own sheriff at the time, Butler then returned to his dinner like he had just swatted a bug. What kind of MAN does this. One with mental issues, one with problems. One that does not need to be out free to spread his racial ignorant attitude. Perhaps in his own sick little mind he thought he was standing his ground, but all he did was MURDER another MAN. Regardless of the race issue... if someone was cursing my children or other children in the neighborhood, I would do the same as Everett did and protect them. This is something we should do regardless of being black, white, brown, yellow, purple or green.
Yes, Port St Joe still has those citizens that were raised in the old time where whites stayed on one side of town and the blacks lived on the other side of the railroad tracks, but the times are changing and just as so many other sleepy little southern towns, we have those citizens that refuse to evolve. We care about our community and ALL the people within its borders, and even those that venture in to enjoy our piece of heaven on earth. We do not want to be known as a sleepy little racist town. All towns have racists. This whole case is simple.... MAN SHOOTS ANOTHER MAN IN HEAD AND ANOTHER YOUNG LIFE IS WASTED.

Concerned Citizen

With all the comments over the past year sad to say that no one in the Butler family has stood up or spoken in defense of their brother that I have seen. You see them around town and they act like they don't know him or want to be connected with Walt but they claim his innocence? I grew up in the St Joe Beach area and know of this family and the drama that follows them. Walt has a son, Chris Butler who lives in Panama City who would go visit his Dad frequently and was also very good friends with the girl Pam mentioned in the article, she was invited to Chris's home several times, he took her out in his boat and all with his Dad. Pam has posted pictures of her son at Chris's home. Pam and Walt were always together everyday. They all had some type of a close relationship which was kinda weird. So makes you wonder why she has turned on Walt. But considering Walt and his family had lived in Pine Ridge Apartments for years. Walt was known to be abusive when he was married and they were known for throwing parties all the time, always beers in hand. Walt lost a son years ago I think. Hear his son Chris is just like him too. Sad to say white trash will always live as white trash, but somehow bring harm to others. Just not right!

al

Simply put, Blacks need to gain lawful firearms just like everyone else is doing. And then get a license to carry it around just like "they" are doing. I bet Congress change those gun laws then!!!!

Logical Opinion

I tend to try to ignore the emotions behind these things.

Two questions I need answered to solve the case.
1. The quote in the article says "someone" opened the door. Who actually opened the door?
2. Did Everette step into the apartment or make any movement to step in or was he outside of the threshold.

The answers to those questions will determine whether Stand Your Ground applies here. That said, there should definitely be a federal hate crimes charge here. Given Walt's words, it is pretty clear that it was racially motivated.

sick of it

**concerned citizen...
His family does indeed stand by him and will continue to do so.You know our family so well, yet you state that we lost Russ a mere year ago. We lost Russ SEVEN years ago. The only reason that racism still lives around here is because the black community so often tends to jump to the "oh poor me, the black guy" guilt trip. You all live on the opposite side of the tracks by choice. No one has forced you there. I do and will continue to stand by Walt. When you see our family in public, whoever you are, know that we all love him regardless, while also remembering the Gant family in our daily prayers. Sounds to me as if YOU are the two faced drama queen. How dare you bring more innocent people into this simply bc of who their family is!!!

Concerned Citizen

sick of it....really? I'm sure your family or Butler family really appreciates you standing up and putting out your comments of Mr. Butler getting a black girl pregnant. They don't like there business told. Like I said I live here and I know close family members that don't wont people to know they are related and can't blame them cause they live here too. Puts the shame on everyone. People live how they are taught.

sick of it

If that weren't known to the public already it might be a big deal....fact is, your nose is somewhere that it doesn't belong being that your facts and accusations are dead wrong. Some concerned citizen to continue to stir the pot eh???

ok

It seems that you have to take the law in your owns hands and take your chances. The laws are made by white people for white people. You do not really think the white man kill over 20 million Native American Indians, so black people can make claim to any rights. America is a business. You cannot be offended by the system, that is just how it is and it cannot change. You have to protect what you have stolen at all cost.

Racism is a black thang

Here we go

Black racist

@sick of it!!You are a victim and don't even know it,your a victim of ignorance,stupidity,and the white race.we as black people never ask for pity,or ask anybody to feel sorry for us.look yal been raping,killing and stealing,this ain't nothing new to the free world .yal started with the Indians and ending it with the black folk.we feel sorry for yal raping,killing and stealing asses!!!!!!!!

spreadlovenothate

dear logical opinion.. it is my understanding..and please understand I am not an expert on this case by any means... but I believe that Mr Butler opened the door after Everett knocked on the door. He had his gun in his hand and raised it upon opening the door and shot Everett. Then closed his door and returned to his dinner. When law enforcement arrived on the scene, the sheriff at the time called him on the phone and asked if he could come in. Mr Butler allowed him to and when the sheriff entered the home, Mr Butler was having dinner and told the sheriff that he didnt understand what he did wrong..he had just shot a N. Everett had no chance to do anything.

Cop

That is not correct SpreadTheLove.

Waiting ForJustice

To SICK OF IT

Indeed, there were witnesses to this murder.
I must point out, however, that blood on carpeting, if such evidence exists, does NOT indicate that Gant stepped into Butler's home.
High-velocity spatters are usually caused by gunshot wounds, although they can be caused by other weapons if the assailant exerts an extreme amount of force. They travel more than 100 feet per second and usually look like a fine spray of tiny droplets, less than one millimeter in diameter. HOWEVER, bullet wounds are unique because they can have both front AND back spatters. In most cases, the back spatter is much smaller than the front spatter because the spatter travels in the direction of the bullet.

Teri

Even if he entered the home, if he did not force himself in but asked if he could enter and was given permission, then the SYG law does not apply unless an actual attack or threat of one occurred. The instructions are that if someone has entered your home by stealth or force, it is fair to assume that they are intending a crime.

Honestly

The cave n!@@er butler will walk just like beaner n!@@er zimmerman. Their is a depraved indifference to black life in America. The mayonnaise monkey butler is a typical violent white savage. They should have never been let out of the caves of Europe.

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