Man claiming ‘stand-your-ground’ defense in fatal St. Augustine shooting opts not to testify

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – When the defense rested its case Thursday morning in a stand-your-ground hearing in St. Johns County court, the man charged with manslaughter in the May 2021 shooting death of am Amoia had opted not to take the stand.

Luis Casado, 31, is also charged with carrying a firearm in a prohibited place in the case. The hearing was to determine if the manslaughter charge against Casado should be dropped.

Casado fatally shot Amoia outside the Dos Gatos bar in Downtown St. Augustine, which is now closed.

The shooting was captured on surveillance video from the bar and neighboring businesses, and in court Tuesday and Wednesday, video from before, during and after the moment Casado shot and killed Amoia was shown.

Some points from the state to deny immunity from prosecution were that Casado would have been justified in using any other force, but not pulling a gun and shooting seven. times. The state argued that a reasonable person wouldn’t think that being slapped called for deadly force, and that Casado had time to realize that Amoia was no longer a threat.

“The video is the evidence of his action and whether or not he really — if you watch that video, am Amoia is further and further and further away, by the time he gets hit in the back, he’s probably 10 feet away,” said prosecutor Kenneth Johnson.

Some of the defense’s points were when Casado started shooting, Amoia was still swinging at him. They said Casado was in fear, panicked and was in survival mode, so he shot his gun as fast as he could, and that it’s possible Casado was thinking more of the men around him could’ve attacked.

During defense testimony early Thursday, a licensed psychologist compared what happened during the deadly shooting with what happens psychologically during an officer-involved shooting, which he has analyzed extensively.

“This case is very similar to what you see in police involved in shootings. Once the threat is there, police are trained not to wait to be attacked. You deflect the threat before it happens,” Dr. Laurence Miller said. “Here, our subject has already been attacked, and only when seeing a bunch of people closing in on him again that he resorts to the deadly result in this case.”

After the defense rested, the prosecution called a witness to rebut testimony from the defense about the psychology of the use of force.

The judge asked the state why they haven’t made arguments on Casado’s possession of the gun. They say it was because that crime ended when he left the bar – though the judge encouraged the state to review that.

The hearing ended without a decision from the judge, which prosecutors indicated to News4JAX might not come for several weeks.

Both sides will submit written orders to the judge in about a month.

Luis Casado is facing a manslaughter charge in the shooting death of am Amoia after a confrontation outside a St. Augustine bar last year.

On Tuesday, video shown in court showed bars and restaurants beginning to close, and Casado is seen walking out of the Dos Gatos bar, then seen standing and talking to another man, identified as Amoia, who was standing with friends.

RELATED: Prosecutors release video of deadly St. Augustine shooting as attorney calls for ‘stand your ground’ hearing

A couple of minutes later, Casado is seen closer to Amoia and Amoia’s friends. Next, Amoia’s friend, identified as Felix Ramos Santiago, gets Casado’s attention. Amoia is still standing against the wall. Casado and Santiago are seen laughing with each other.

Casado’s stand-your-ground petition said the conversation “was of no real significance and certainly nothing threatening.”

The petition says that Amoia and Santiago “began to suddenly and in concert violently attack” Casado “for no apparent reason.”

The petition says that “Amoia, drunk and leaning on the wall, suddenly became aggressive and insisted that Mr. Casado leave immediately,” even though Casado “did nothing to incite rudeness or violence.”

The petition says that before Casado had a chance to “make sense of Mr. Amoia’s bizarre request,” Amoia shoved him, then hit him in the face, knocking off his glasses, rendering Casado legally blind.

It states Santiago then punched Casado and Amoia and followed that by hitting Casado four more times in the face when Casado “found himself forced up against a wall.”

The defense spent the morning Wednesday breaking down video from outside the bar frame by frame.

Santiago is heard screaming on an officer’s body cam. He was supposed to testify in court Wednesday but didn’t due to technical issues.

The defense called a use-of-force expert, Dr. Roy Bedard, who analyzed the video and explains human factors. He said the threat begins with the men standing in the video, who appeared to be focused on Casado.

Attorney: “Does it look like bullying?”

Bedard:I think bullying doesn’t end in middle school, picking on someone they think they can handle, this could be going on here, but can’t say for certain.”

Things escalate in the video after Amoia tries to turn Casado around. Bedard said Casado didn’t make any threatening gestures but does signal that he does not want to fight.

Bedard: “He puts his hands up.”

In cross-examination, the state pointed out that no one knows what Casado thought of the men in the video.

Prosecutor: “Some people in the group never moved.”

Bedard: “Yes, but Casado couldn’t stand on that because he didn’t know what they would do.”

Casado is given less than a second to walk away before the first blow. Then Amoia hits him again, again and again until Casado pulls his gun and shoots seven times.

Attorney: “Could Casado have stopped firing when Amoia turned around?”

Bedard: “No.”

Bedard said it happens often and that the mind can’t understand there’s no longer a threat.

The prosecutor didn’t revisit this statement in his cross-examination.

Instead, he said the defense opened the door with implications of what Casado was thinking, saying that no one knows what Casado thought, but that his actions are clear on the video.

The stand-your-ground petition points out the sequence took 15 seconds, and Casado’s lawyer notes that his client has no prior criminal history, but that both Amoia and Santiago do.

State rests

Evidence revealed both men had been drinking leading up to the shooting.

Dr. James Fulcher, the chief medical examiner for District 7, said he determined Amoia had alcohol and hydrocodone in his system. Amoia’s blood alcohol concentration level was .266, more than three times the legal limit for driving in Florida.

Witness Jenna Smith said she served Casado at a bar before he went to Dos Gatos in St. Augustine, testifying he was served four beers.

During cross-examination, the defense asked if it was true that when he left the bar there were no signs of intoxication.

“Not that I was aware of,” Smith told the court.

All of the witnesses testified that neither man appeared drunk. Before the shooting, both men were seen inside Dos Gatos and there was no conflict.

During testimony Tuesday, the court learned Casado, who worked security and valet at a hotel, had gotten off work that night after working 30 days straight. Casado has a concealed-carry permit for his gun and was allowed to have it on him outside.

The state rested its case Tuesday.

Witnesses testify

Testimony in the stand-your-ground hearing began Monday with Cpl. Eric Yarborough of the St. Augustine Police Department. Yarborough arrived to find Amoia lying on the ground shot and Casado standing on the sidewalk with his gun.

Casado explained why he shot Amoia.

“He hit me four times. I shot him,” Casado said in bodycam footage. “Self-defense. It was self-defense.”

Marilyn Butts, a crime scene technician, captured evidence from the shooting. Among the evidence: Shell casings, Casado’s glasses that were knocked off his face when he was hit, and his gun.

The next three witnesses Monday — Allison Seanard, Makayla Pomarzynski and Ryan Winland — all testified to seeing or hearing the shooting but said they did not know all the details of what led up to it.

“I thought it was like horseplay,” Seanard said. “I did see someone slap someone, it was like an open contact situation. But I did see someone from the group of boys — I saw a group of boys hit or made contact with the individual and he may have backed up. And then nothing else occurred and then there was a gun and chaos ensued.”

The final witness of the day, Michael Britton, was working at Dos Gatos in St. Augustine and testified that Casado was becoming aggressive outside and that Amoia tried to make him leave.

“am steps up, kind of like, turns him by the shoulders to like, ‘Alright buddy. It’s time for you to go, alright, f-off,’ and then he turns around and now this is where he’s acting bold and stepping in people’s personal spaces,” Britton said.

During cross-examination, the defense said it was Amoia and another friend who instigated the fight and attacked Casado first.

Attorney: “Did you see Mr. Casado after these two hits … did you see him start to back up?”

Britton: “Uh, I don’t remember, but I would say so, yes.”

Attorney: “Do you remember his hand being in the air?”

Britton: “No.”

Attorney: “Do you remember anyone trying to stop Mr. Amoia?”

Britton: “No.”

Attorney: “Did you try to stop him?”

Britton: “No.”

Attorney: “Did you even yell anything, ‘Don’t do that?’”

Britton: “No.”

Attorney: “Did any of these guys here in exhibit one try to stop it?”

Britton: “No.”

Attorney: “Did any of them yell, ‘Please don’t do that?’”

Britton: “No.”

Attorney: “Everyone just watched.”

Britton: “Yup.”

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