One night in October 2016, Master Deputy Richard Palmer of the Lake County, Florida Sheriff’s Department received a call to proceed to a known meth house in a rural area, after a 9-1-1 caller reported mayhem at the location.  Almost there, Palmer saw a woman in a sedan emerging from the lonely road that led to the house in question. She went through a stop sign and stopped in front of the patrol car. Both vehicles’ windows were down, and Palmer ordered her to pull over. Instead, she pulled away.  Palmer followed, and less than a hundred yards down the road, she pulled into a yard.  Palmer pulled in behind her.

As he opened the patrol car door, the woman was already emerging from her car and Palmer saw her put what appeared to be an automatic pistol in the left front pocket of her hoodie. He drew his issue Glock and shouted at her to stop, but instead she came toward him rapidly with her hands raised.  But then her hands suddenly dropped, going toward the pocket with the gun, and Palmer did as he was trained: he raised his service pistol from low ready and fired. The woman crumpled as the .40 caliber Gold Dot bullet struck her in the hip.

Palmer cautiously approached, holstered his weapon, grabbed her left hand to stabilize it and reached his other hand into the left pocket.  Instead of a gun, he found an iPhone. Its rectangular black shape, in the poor light, had appeared to be a small semi-auto pistol. Moreover, the dashcam of his patrol car showed she had raised her hands again before the bullet hit her, but firing from a line of sight Isosceles stance as trained, his hands and gun had blocked his view of her hands and he never saw that movement.

It was a classic example of what homicide investigators call a furtive movement shooting. Four intensive investigations – by his own department’s Internal Affairs unit, then the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, then the State’s Attorney’s Office, and finally a Grand Jury – all saw the truth and exonerated Palmer: his actions had been objectively reasonable under the unusual circumstances, and were well within the guidance of SCOTUS’ guiding decision on police use of force in Graham v. Connor. But it wasn’t enough for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, which filed charges and indicted Palmer in 2019.  An already backlogged Federal Court was logjammed further by the Covid pandemic, and the case didn’t come to trial until last week.

The prosecution presented it as an unarmed woman maliciously shot with her hands up by a deputy who was angry because she took twenty seconds to pull over as instructed.  Palmer’s defense team, led by the brilliant lawyer Alan Diamond, brought me in as expert witness. Under the Rules we couldn’t tell the jury that the woman had a long history of felonies and was driving a stolen car, because those facts weren’t known to the deputy at the time of the shooting.  We WERE able to dissect the timeline of the shooting and show how any reasonable officer in Palmer’s position, seeing what he saw, would have done what he did.  As I told the jury, it wasn’t a victim and a villain, it was an unfortunate confluence of circumstances that made victims of both parties.  The jury got it.  On Friday Palmer, who could have been sentenced to twenty years in the penitentiary if he had been convicted, was completely exonerated by the jury with a Not Guilty verdict.

That’s worth remembering the next time some naïve soul tells you, “A good shoot is a good shoot.”  Diamond and his team were up against the DOJ, with its annual $35.3 billion budget, and a prosecution team that had apparently never tried to reconstruct the timeline from the available evidence.  I congratulate Diamond on his splendid defense of the wrongfully accused officer, and am grateful to have had some part in his exoneration. I wish to publicly thank my colleague Steve Denney, who did a brilliant job running two days of my MAG-80 class at the magnificent Boondocks Firearms Training Academy in Mississippi for the two days I had to be at the trial in Tampa, and also my techno-savvy friend Herman Gunter IV.  Herman applied a Coach’s Eye app to the dashcam video, allowing me to show the jury that the key action had taken place in about 1.32 seconds.  The Government had more than 173 million of those seconds to assemble their case, and still had only the weak “what if” of their theory against the defense’s solid “what is” of the facts in evidence and the well-known elements of dynamics of violent encounters.


  1. Mas, you said that this officer was subjected to Federal charges even after being cleared at the State level. This violates the spirit of “double-jeopardy” although, I know, it is not considered a violation-in-law.

    In which Federal court was he tried? Very often, the Fed’s try to get these cases moved to a D.C. or NY Federal court where they can count on “Blue State” brainwashed juries, and a push from their localized Anti-American Media, to return favorable verdicts for the regime.

    Was that so here? Or was he tried in a Federal Court that was, physically, located in Florida?

    If Florida, that may have been a factor in getting a sensible verdict in this case.

    • “Two Kings” is the legal point. One set of state statute charges by the state, king one, and one set of federal statute charges by the federal government, king two. FWIW from another life, civilians violating state laws on military installations were typically charged via state statutes by the MPs who had that authority under the Assimilated Crimes Act of 1978 and prosecuted in the U.S. Magistrate’s Court who had jurisdiction for that particular military installation. It was a PITA to be an MP who moved from state to state and had to keep tuned up on each state’s statutes, plus federal statutes and the UCMJ.

    • I concur. This, at the very least, is a violation of the Constitution’s spirit. The Founding Fathers certainly never envisioned the mockery of Separation of Powers that has come about and the Administrative overreach that we live under.

  2. What an upside-down clown world we live in! The perps long rap sheet and in possession of a stolen car, can’t be introduced as evidence yet every thing, dating back to first grade about the defender can be? Rittenhouse, Chauvin, Darren Wilson to name a few, appalling to say the least. *spit*

    • On one hand, I agree with you that the amount of “life history” allowed as evidence is strongly one-sided.

      On the other hand, the critical data is what the defendant knew or should have known at the time. In most cases, there’s no way for the defendant to know whether his/her attacker has a criminal history (even though there’s a strong-enough correlation between “people who attack” and “people who have attacked before” that it’s not an unreasonable assumption) or whether the vehicle the attacker is driving is stolen. With the rare exception in which the defendant knows his/her attacker and any criminal history beforehand, it’s generally inadmissible.

      But the defendant does know his/her own life story. Ergo, it’s all admissible.

      I think the real problem is how, with wall-to-wall media coverage, the defendant’s entire life story — including any libel and defamation the media engages in (a la Nick Sandmann, George Zimmerman, and Kyle Rittenhouse) — becomes part of the national news cycle, while his/her attacker continues to enjoy a fair amount of privacy.

      “Appalling” is right.

  3. Strange… “Moreover, the dashcam of his patrol car showed she had raised her hands again before the bullet hit her, but firing from a line of sight Isosceles stance as trained”

    I don’t understand that… if she raised her hands, AND HE SHOT HER IN THE HIP, should not those hands be above the line of sight? Or did he fire just as she moved her hands but before he could see them?

    • He stated that he aimed center chest as trained. The shot went low and to his left, quite typical of right-handed pistol shooting under life-threatening stress.

  4. DOJ continues the arrogance. THey know better than EVERY other level including grand juries. Nothing counts if DOJ wants to play God. Glad you were here.

  5. Congratulations. Helluva win as we lawyers say. Another notch for Alan Diamond and you. I thought you were at least a 4:1 underdog; I expected a hung jury. The lawyering and expert testimony must have been nothing short of a grand slam.

  6. Mas-
    Since he was charged by the Civil Rights Division, does that imply the charges were violating the woman’s civil rights by shooting her? That’s as opposed to criminal assault. (I’m assuming this was not a fatal shooting.)
    Is the officer still vulnerable to a civil suit filed by the woman?

    • Yup, under civil rights. Civil case was settled out of court for $200K, cheaper than going to trial. Don’t get me started on THAT…

      • Will the Feds be required to pick up the LARGE tab for the officer’s defense at their hands? Seems tney should, as they falied. The civil fees will be a wash as a part of the settlement one way or the other.

        If the “contact” in this case, the woman who was shot, survived, has/will she face the charges for her stolen car trick, or her other chargeable offenses the officer did not know about at the time?

  7. Great commentary Mas. I learn something every time I read your blog. Kind of a “poor man’s” MAG 40. A great public service.

    Thank you.

  8. A just outcome to tragic situation. Mas thanks for all you do in training and in court. A price cannot be attached to what you offer and do for those seeking knowledge and in need of expert help.

  9. Thank you for that, it’s great to hear that there is SOME justice to be had in criminal court. However, one can imagine what would have been the result without the ability to examine the video evidence in detail or if the LEO defendant would not have been able to have experts on his side to testify. IMO the ‘scales of justice’ are not evenly balanced, but it is better than most other parts of the world.

  10. > saw her put what appeared to be an automatic pistol in the left front pocket of her hoodie. … her hands suddenly dropped, going toward the pocket with the gun. … low ready … reached his other hand into the left pocket. Instead of a gun, he found an iPhone.

    The cop has his gun drawn already, her hands are up, and then she drops a hand and reaches into a pocket.

    While some people would probably think reaching for your phone under such circumstances are perfectly natural, it looks more like officer-assisted attempted suicide to me.

  11. Two words in Mas’ article stand out to me. “Night” and “officer.” Low light is always difficult, and has been a contributing cause of mistaken shootings in the past.

    Notice that this was how an officer of the law was treated. Could a civilian have been exonerated? Of course, a civilian would not be pulling over a car driver, but a civilian could be confused in a low light setting. Also, this occurred in Florida, which is part of real America. What if it had happened in a slave/Communist state like CA, MA, NJ, NY, IL or MD?

    The behavior of the perpetrator is so predictable. This happens ALL the time. She did not resist arrest as much as some infamous perps have, but she drove away after being ordered to stop, and got out of her car. Then, she walked toward the officer! Was she trying to win a Darwin Award? [Most people know to stay in their cars, but there may be some states where people get out to talk to the police during traffic stops. In the 1980s, I knew a co-worker from Minnesota who got out of his car during a traffic stop in NJ, but was ordered back into the car. In MN at that time getting out of the car was normal.] In the low light, she made gestures which appeared to be threatening. This shows that she was only thinking about herself. She was not able to imagine the thoughts the officer might have seeing her in the dark. She didn’t realize how her movements were being interpreted.

    It’s time for public service announcements (like the one Mas made some years ago) to be played on TV showing how to act when dealing with the police. Parents and schools need to teach children how to act when encountering the police. I know this won’t happen in today’s twisted world.

    Given the facts, I don’t think a trial was necessary.

  12. Glad to see the positive outcome of the trial. I have often had folks approach walking on the sidewalk in downtown Phoenix with hands in jacket pockets like they were Jimmy Cagney, ready to shoot without provocation. USUALLY these people looked like honorable business professionals. It was not hard to figure that at least some of them had experienced or witnessed robbery previously on some occasion and were simply taking precautions. I have so far interpreted the posture as a probable moving defensive stance, albeit fairly dubious, as it could be taken as potentially aggressive, and could trigger a preemptive shooting. I would say that WHAT these people are doing is filtered by HOW they do it, as well as how they look. I have unfortunately met one killer years ago in Alaska going around in such a hands-in-pockets pose who did in at least five people. Shooting someone like him preemptively, when his hands were on loaded revolvers, such as he was carrying unseen in pocket, would too likely be an existential act. That sort of shooting should obtain as self-defense. I personally would certainly be careful not to look like I had a gun muzzle pointed at somebody from inside a coat pocket.

  13. You want expert review and elucidation that frees an innocent man? You bring in the big dog – Mas Ayoob.

    • Kind words appreciated, but in the end, it’s the defense lawyer(s) who deserve the credit in cases like this.

  14. Makes me angry the DOJ continued with this prosecution. I’m glad Palmer won, proud to say I’ve learned from you, Mas. What a resource you are, especially those fighting this kind of state-sponsored lunacy.

  15. My guess is that LEOs will notice what happened to Master Deputy Palmer, and maybe be less determined to try to get criminals off the street. Might as well play it safe, and try not to get involved, the pay is the same. Early retirement will look desirable. Those looking to become LEOs will see how current LEOs are being treated, and choose another path. Has Palmer retired, or is he still on the Force?

    I can’t know the future, but I’m guessing about it. Looks like we are learning once again that government can’t do anything right. The people have contracted with the government; we the people pay for you the government to protect us. If you can’t protect we the people, then we will do it ourselves. That will eventually lead to chaos, because, instead of good people joining hands to form a powerful law enforcement team, it is more likely that bad people will be better at joining hands to prey on the good people. Warlords and gangs will rule instead of government, if current trends are not reversed. In theory, good people could form good gangs, but they won’t.

    I used to have a short list of things government did well. Now my list is even shorter. NASA in the 1960s and 1970s, and the post office, seem to be the only things government has done well since the end of WWII. I have heard that the post office could be profitable, if it didn’t have to deliver to rural areas. I don’t think the post office has to be profitable, but that is one fault businessmen seem to find with it.

  16. The Doctrine of Separate Sovereigns is an exception to the Double Jeopardy Rule. Because the States and the Federal Government are distinctly separate sovereigns under the Constitution, they get a second bite at the Apple. Which is why we need to change the process from appointing the Attorney General to electing him or her. A political Department of Justice is unjust.

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