PORT ST. JOHN, Florida – The Florida 5th District Court of Appeals rendered an opinion and order dismissing the prosecution of 70-year-old John Derossett for the Attempted Premeditated First-Degree Murder of a Law Enforcement Officer while Discharging a Firearm, under the provisions of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
On August 15, 2015, deputies of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office attempted to arrest 47-year-old Mary Ellis, in connection with prostitution activity taking place at the home she shared with her uncle, John Derossett on Covina Street in Port St. John, Florida.
Undercover agents contacted Ellis at the front door and a struggle ensued while attempting the arrest.
Derossett heard the disturbance from his bedroom and went to the front door armed with a firearm.
Derossett claimed that he did not know the men struggling with Ellis were law enforcement, and subsequently fired a shot from the front porch.
Deputies returned fire, with numerous shots being exchanged.
Deputy Casey Smith was seriously wounded but ultimately recovered after a lengthy hospitalization and rehabilitation period.
Both Derossett and Ellis also sustained less serious gunshot wounds in the incident.
The Appellate Court’s order focused on the issue of whether Derossett was entitled to the protections offered under the Stand Your Ground law.
The lower court had ruled that his knowledge that Ellis was committing prostitution at the home violated the law’s provision that the protection does not apply when “the person who uses or threatens to use defensive force is engaged in a criminal activity or is using the dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle to further a criminal activity.”
The State had previously argued that providing the physical residence to Ellis, who used it to commit prostitution, met the provision of furthering criminal activity.
The 5th DCA disagreed and ruled that Derossett’s knowledge alone did not further Ellis’s criminal prostitution and overturned the lower court ruling.
The Order applied the Stand Your Ground protection to Derossett, and the criminal prosecution was dismissed.
Derossett will not face any further charges arising from the incident.
Prosecutors were disappointed in the ruling but said they respect the decision of the Court.
“Our law enforcement officers risk their lives daily to protect our community. This ruling adds to that risk by extending protection to those who turn a blind eye to criminal activity, even within their own home,” the State Attorney’s Office stated in a release.