Lakeland, Florida

From of June 23, 2007

Polk Deputies: Intruder shot and killed

Polk County Deputies spent the early morning hours on the scene of a deadly home invasion in the Lakeland area.

Deputies tell us around 9 pm last night the person who lives in the home shot a man trying to get inside.

This happened at 534 Timberlane. The home is in a neighborhood just south of the E. Main Street and S. Combee Road Intersection.

When deputies got on the scene, they found the alleged intruder dead.

They plan to release more details on the investigation later this morning.

From of June 24, 2007

Home invasion leaves suspect dead

Police say a man trying to rob a Lakeland home was shot and killed by a resident.

James McArthur Johnson Junior, 31, died from a bullet wound. His alleged accomplice, 39-year-old Elvin Tolliver, escaped, but was later arrested.

“Both suspects had guns in their hands and were wearing masks – Jason type masks – with gloves,” said Chief W.J. Martin, with Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

“They forced themselves into the home and began to rob folks in the home. The homeowner fired a gun and killed one of the suspects, the other managed to get away,” Martin said.

Investigators say when the two entered the home, they demanded jewelry and money. Several people were in the house at the time. As the suspects entered the bedroom, a man pulled a gun, fatally shooting Johnson.

“Obviously, the victims were in fear for their lives as they should have been and they did what they had to do to protect themselves,” said Martin.

Police say the victims didn’t know their attackers, although James Johnson did live right across the street. Neighbors describe him as a ‘nice person’, but Johnson did have a rap sheet, including charges for robbery and aggravated battery dating back to 2002.

Some residents expressed frustration that another murder had occurred in their neighborhood. About one year ago, a drive by shooting just two houses away claimed lives. Since then, police and homeowners say things had gotten better, until now.

“We’ve worked hard to clean this neighborhood up,” said Tim Lauzon, who’s lived in the neighborhood for six years. “And we still have a few we’re trying to root out of here, and eventually they’ll be gone.”

Another neighbor, Glenn Martin, pointed out patched up bullet holes that riddle the outside of his home, scars from the drive-by shooting.

He didn’t live there at the time, but Martin says he’s heard the stories. Now, another murder next door is about as much as he can take.

“Scary, very scary,” Martin said. “It’s the only incident that’s happened since I’ve been here and it’s enough to make you want to leave.”

Police arrested Elvin Tolliver late Saturday. He’s a registered sex offender with warrants out for his arrest before the break-in.

From the Lakeland Ledger of June 26, 2007

Police: Defensive Shooting Justified

A man who shot an intruder in his home Friday will not be arrested, officials say.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office’s decision not to arrest a Lakeland man who shot and killed a man who broke into his apartment Friday would have been the same without the state’s 2-year-old so-called “Stand Your Ground” law.

James McArthur Johnson, 31, was killed after he and an accomplice showed up at a small party in Lakeland on Friday night.

Sheriff’s spokeswoman Elizabeth Smokay said Johnson and Elvin J. Tolliver, 39, walked up to a party at 545 Timberlane W., Apt. B, on Friday shortly before 9 p.m. They brandished handgun-style BB guns at partygoers, demanding their money and jewelry.

One of the men pistol-whipped a guest, she said.

The burglary was foiled by the apartment’s resident, James W. Miranda, who shot Johnson with a shotgun as he opened the door to come into a bedroom.

Chief W.J. Martin, who is in charge of the sheriff’s Criminal Investigations Division, has said that his agency does not intend to pursue criminal charges against Miranda in the shooting.

Even before the “Stand Your Ground” law – which took effect in October 2005 and no longer requires a person who feels threatened to retreat before using deadly force – victims already were permitted to use deadly force to stop an attacker from committing a forcible felony.

Those include any “felony which involves the use or threat of physical force or violence against any individual,” in this case, burglary of an occupied dwelling, which is one of the charges facing Tolliver, who surrendered to authorities Saturday night.

The new law states that a person is “presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily harm,” and therefore can use deadly force, if the assailant had, among other things, “unlawfully and forcibly entered” a residence.

It also provides immunity from criminal and civil prosecution of the victim.

“These guys were armed and (Miranda’s) life was threatened, and he was justified in shooting them,” Martin said.

For his part, Miranda is keeping quiet. Attempts to interview him have been unsuccessful.

Ultimately, the final decision about whether or not to charge Miranda in the shooting lies with the State Attorney’s Office.

Spokesman Chip Thullbery declined to comment on the case Monday, because detectives had not yet completed their investigation.

Once a report is submitted, prosecutors will review the case and will make their own determination about filing charges.


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