Tampa, Florida

From Tampa’s TBO.com of August 9, 2007

Prosecutors Decide Parking Lot Shooting Was Self-Defense

Hillsborough County prosecutors have decided not to pursue aggravated battery charges against a Pinellas County car salesman accused of shooting a man who was charging at him outside an Oldsmar bar this year.

The ordeal was captured on a 911 tape, recorded after the shooter called for help but before he fired his .45-caliber handgun.

Craig Auclair was arrested on aggravated battery charges after he shot Scott Baptista, a 40-year-old seasonal employee of Tampa Bay Downs who lived at the track. Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputies said the shooting occurred after a barroom squabble over cigarettes.

Assistant State Attorney Morris J. Fonte Jr. said it was a clear case of self-defense, even though Auclair started the initial fight.

The altercation began inside KD’s Pub on the northeast corner of Hillsborough Avenue and Race Track Road just after midnight Feb. 26 when Auclair, 25, and Baptista fought.

Auclair, of 507 Longfellow Court, Apt. D, Safety Harbor, was kicked out of the bar, deputies said, and as he walked toward his vehicle, Baptista and a friend followed.

An independent witness told prosecutors that Baptista and his friend backed Auclair up about 90 feet before Auclair, who had retrieved a handgun from his vehicle and had called 911, fired a warning shot into the air.

Because he was so close to the county line, Auclair’s 911 call was connected to Pinellas County dispatchers.

While Auclair was on the telephone, the two men continued to approach him and Baptista dared Auclair to shoot him, witnesses said.

Fonte said that although Auclair was the aggressor inside the bar, “in no way was he the aggressor outside. He gave every opportunity for the men to back off.” Baptista told Fonte that he followed Auclair outside “to get his licks in.”

Shots were fired; two hit Baptista, deputies said. He was treated at St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Auclair’s attorney argued that his client’s actions were self-defense.

“We are very pleased with the decision by the state attorney’s office not to pursue this matter,” said defense attorney John Lauro of Tampa in a prepared statement issued Monday. “We believe that Mr. Auclair acted entirely in self-defense and within his rights under Florida’s new Stand-Your-Ground Act.”


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