Last May in the waning hours of some late-night-Saturday/early-morning-Sunday revelry, the streets of Newtown, Florida played host to a dramatic display of gunfire which left Patrick Barbour, 24, dead and the man who pulled the trigger, Alphonse Gallo, 35, sitting in Sarasota County Jail, grappling with the realization that he may never be a free man again.
This icy fate would not befall Mr. Gallo however and his release from jail last month heralds the first Sarasota County murder defendant to successfully argue as their defense the state’s 2005 “Stand-your-ground” law, which specifically authorizes citizens to call upon deadly force to defend themselves rather than retreating.
“All of his actions were made in response to a reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm,” Senior Circuit Judge Stephen Dakan wrote in a ruling. “The defendant was under fire from that first shot until he was able to escape in his van.”
With a pantheon of witnesses to sort through on the city’s busy intersection including relations of Barbour and on the back of Mr. Gallo’s apprehension 10 hours later, prosecutors and police were inclined to believe a different version. One witness told police Gallo stood over Barbour’s wounded body while shooting toward the other men. She said Gallo walked over Barbour and fired the fatal shots, then ran away. She also damningly alleged that Barbour did not have a gun that night, and indeed a gun was never recovered from Barbour’s body.
But the hard evidence combined with a sincere testimony from Mr. Gallo gave his version of events credence.
Gallo’s van sported several bullet holes and shells from a number of different guns were recovered at the scene. It was noted as well that there was ample time for a member of Mr. Barbour’s crew or one of the congregating witnesses to remove the gun from Barbour’s body before police arrived.
Linchpin to Judge Dakan’s decision was Gallo’s testimony. In open court Mr. Gallo recalled how Mr. Barbour and several other men approached him on May 15 near the intersection of Martin Luther King Jr. Way and Pershing Avenue as the local bars were filing out after the two had been involved in minor confrontation about 30 minutes prior.
Gallo testified that Barbour, 24, threatened to rob him and then produced a pistol from his pocket. Gallo, a card carrying CCW holder, recalled that he drew his own gun and fired at Barbour three times.
The first shots set off a powder keg of violence between Gallo and Barbour’s entourage. Gallo attested that he sought cover behind a car from the hail of gunfire, and surveying the street witnessed a badly wounded Barbour raising his pistol at him. Gallo preemptively unloaded four additional shots at Barbour as he lay on the ground. Prosecutors would later unsuccessfully argue that Barbour was no longer a threat because he was lying down.
After, Gallo ran for his van and fled the scene with shots still being fired in his direction.
“It is more likely than not that the defendant fired his pistol at Barbour because Barbour pulled a firearm from his pocket,” Dakan wrote. “Barbour had ingested alcohol and cocaine that night, and continuously had been the aggressor.” This combined with 10 previous arrests in Sarasota County in connection with such crimes as grand theft auto, drug possession and improperly exhibiting a gun painted a darker picture of Mr. Barbour.
The Herald-Tribune quoted Gallo via phone interview last Tuesday, saying, “It’s hard for me to stomach what I had to do. Thank God he [Judge Dakan] was impartial and he listened.”
Though he has not ruled out a civil lawsuit over the arrest and 5-month jail stay that cost him his job and time with his wife and four kids, Gallo says he is just happy to be free, stating, “I’m just trying to get my life back together.”
Gallo said he has a security job on the line, but he is still awaiting the reinstatement of his concealed carry permit.
Prosecutors said they have appealed the decision, but are not optimistic about it being overturned. Last month in Manatee County, a 39-year-old man successfully used the Stand Your Ground law as a defense for aggravated assault.