PASCO COUNTY, Fla. — Attorneys for former Port Richey Mayor Dale Massad have filed a motion seeking immunity from prosecution for their client under the state's "Stand Your Ground" law. 

  • Motion claims Massad thought criminals, not law enforcement, were trying to get into his home
  • Burden lies with state to disprove allegations
  • Motion expected to be discussed in court Friday
  • More Pasco County stories

"Our client had the absolute right to fire his gun inside his home as a warning to the people that were on the outside because he believed that someone was trying to break into his home. He did not believe it was law enforcement," said Massad's attorney, Bjorn Brunvand.

Massad currently faces a number of charges, including attempted homicide. He's accused of intentionally shooting at Pasco County Sheriff's deputies as they helped serve a warrant at his home on February 21 of last year related to his alleged practice of medicine without a license. 

The initial complaint against Massad states that deputies announced themselves three times before trying to break down his front door with a ram, then shooting the locking mechanisms with a shotgun.

It also notes six neighbors who were interviewed said they heard the sheriff's office announce their presence. According to the motion, neither Massad nor anyone else inside the house heard law enforcement announcing themselves.

It also states authorities gave Massad "only seconds" to respond after announcing their presence, despite the fact that they did so at 4:30 in the morning.

"Immediately inside the door is an elevator shaft, and the bedroom that Dr. Massad was sleeping in is all the way to the other end of the house. So, there's a lot of things blocking the noise," said Brunvand.

The motion claims Massad woke up to the sounds of someone trying to break the door down, and that's when he grabbed his pistol in an attempt to defend himself.

The sheriff's office complaint states once deputies got the door open, a "distraction device" was placed just inside the front door and "emitted a loud 'Bang' and a bright flashing light." Then deputies heard what was recognized as gun fire as Massad fired two shots.

"Neither one of the shots were in the direction of law enforcement. Law enforcement was not in the house," said Brunvand.

According to the motion, Massad neither pointed the gun or fired again after realizing it was deputies at the door.

"I don't see a judge finding under these circumstances that the defendant was reasonable in the use of deadly force against police officers in the line of duty," said Jeffrey Swartz, a law professor with WMU Cooley Law School in Riverview.

Swartz is not connected to the Massad case but said he's closely followed Stand Your Ground since its inception. He said if deputies announced their presence, there's no claim for Stand Your Ground.

Swartz said if the law was applicable in cases like this, anyone being arrested with legal force could shoot and claim that defense, which could be a danger to law enforcement lives.

Attorneys for Massad point out in the motion that in one case, Derossett v. State, an appellate court ruled in favor of a defendant who claimed self defense when police came to his house in an official capacity. The officers involved in that case were not in uniform.

"That argument doesn't fit here, if the evidence is as indicated, that people who lived in the neighborhood heard the police yelling ... wearing police gear," said Swartz.

Massad's attorneys point out in the motion that it's "the state's burden to disprove all of the defendant's allegations by clear and convincing evidence in order to defeat a motion under Stand Your Ground."

The motion is expected to be discussed in court Friday. Brunvand said he thinks a Stand Your Ground hearing can be scheduled without delaying the expected February 24 start date of Massad's trial.