Police in Florida are investigating the fatal shooting by an Uber driver of a man who threatened him with a firearm, in what a local sheriff has dubbed a “classic stand-your-ground case,” according to reports.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office detailed the sequence of events in a press release issued Wednesday: Late Monday or early Tuesday, a woman identified by ABC News as Jasmine Meazel was intoxicated after a night out at a Dundee bar and ordered an Uber to give her a lift home. Upon its arrival, a woman named Jessica Mazzarella, also identified by ABC, helped Meazel enter the vehicle, driven by Robert Westlake, despite not previously knowing her.
While Westlake drove Meazel to her destination, authorities said that Mazzarella “then began receiving text messages from her on-again, off-again boyfriend [Jason] Boek.” Boek, 34, who Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd described as “explosive,” according to ABC, told Mazzarella that he was going to follow the Uber and physically harm the man driving it—despite the fact that she remained at the bar and wasn’t riding in the car.
“It appears Boek saw his girlfriend walk out to the [Uber], and thought she—not the other bar patron—was inside,” the Polk County Sheriff’s Office wrote.
Boek proceeded to pursue the Uber in his pickup truck. After Boek initially “aggressively approached” Westlake’s car from behind, he managed to pass and pull in front of the Uber before breaking suddenly. Westlake then stopped his car, and Boek walked toward it while threatening that he had a “pistol.”
“Boek continued to approach, at which time Westlake, who is a concealed weapon permit holder and a licensed armed security guard, reached into the pocket of the driver door and retrieved a handgun, firing one shot at the truck driver,” the sheriff’s office wrote.
Westlake and his passenger can both be heard gasping, “Oh my God,” following the shooting on dash cam footage of the incident.
Westlake called 911 after the incident and told the dispatcher he fired a shot at Boek and was putting pressure on his wound, according to ABC.
“He ran me off the road. Jumped out of his vehicle. I couldn’t get away. He came towards me shouting he’s got a pistol, reached for his waistband,” Westlake said during the call, as quoted by ABC. “I fired one shot from my pistol. He dropped his cell phone. I kicked it away. I didn’t realize it was a cell phone at first.”
He later expressed remorse over the situation.
“I feel for his family and their loss and I feel for their son more than anything,” Westlake said in a statement to ABC, adding that Uber had suspended his account until he could demonstrate officially that he was no longer considered a person of interest in the shooting.
Westlake did not respond to multiple requests for comment by Oxygen.com.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office noted in its press release that Boek was on felony probation for battery as of June 2016 and until June 2021. Further, his driver’s license was suspended this past May, and the truck he was driving at the time of shooting was on loan from a friend of his.
Meanwhile, Sheriff Judd during a Wednesday press conference asserted that such a situation “was the intent of the law,” referring to Florida's stand-your-ground law, which allows a person to defend themselves against a threat—even fatally so—regardless of whether they had the ability to escape the situation without using force. The law gained notoriety in the aftermath of teenager Trayvon Martin's shooting death at the hands of George Zimmerman.
"This is a justifiable homicide all day long. You have a right to protect yourself,” he said.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said that the investigation is still ongoing.
[Photo: Polk County Sheriff's Office]