Jury selection underway in ''Stand Your Ground'' trial of tow truck driver Donald Montanez

2:09 PM, Feb 20, 2012   |    comments
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Video: Tow truck driver to stand trial Monday

Donald Montanez shot and killed a man he says was threatening him while he tried to tow his car in 2006.

 

Tampa, Florida --  Six years ago, tow truck driver Donald Montanez says he was in fear for his life and the lives of his employees when he fired his gun into a car driven by Glen Rich as he says it barreled toward him.

Rich died from the gunshot wound later that day.

Today, a jury is being selected as Montanez stands trial for murder.

"I live with him [Glen Rich] every day in my thoughts.  I'm sorry he's gone, but I'm alive because someone tried to take my life and tried to take my employees' lives.  Unfortunately, I live with that now," Montanez told 10 News Anchor Reginald Roundtree in an exclusive interview last week.

Montanez and his defense attorney, Jay Hebert claim Montanez was justified in the shooting under Florida's "Stand Your Ground" statute which gives a person the right to use deadly force if they feel threatened, even in a public place.

The men now hope to convince a jury had Montanez not fired his weapon, he wouldn't be alive today to tell his side of the story.

The case isn't clear cut, though.

The state claims Montanez did not have the right to tow Rich's vehicle, because he was parked in the right of way outside the Sugar Shack, not in the business parking lot where the tow company had a contract to tow illegally parked vehicles.

There is also a question of the timing of the shooting, that it wasn't an act of self defense.

A judge dismissed a motion in 2009, ruling the Stand Your Ground law does not apply to this case.

Montanez appealed that ruling.

Hebert says he's had six years to build this case and is confident a jury will determine Montanez was justified in the shooting that killed Glen Rich on January 8, 2006.

"I was doing my job. I was going there doing what people asked me to do, to remove vehicles that weren't correctly in spaces designated to park," explained Montanez.

"A life was lost and so was mine that morning, because it's never been the same," he told Reginald Roundtree.

Herbert says the Montanez case was among the first to be tested by the Stand Your Ground law that was signed into law by Governor Jeb Bush in 2005.

He tells 10 News the state amended the charges late in the game, "In the last few months, the government made the decision to amend the charge to include third degree murder under the theory Don stole the car that night," said Hebert.

Montanez is also facing charges of second degree murder, aggravated assault and shooting into a vehicle in this case.

He faces life in prison.

Hebert dismisses that theory, saying Montanez legally towed the vehicle and called it in to Tampa Police 20 minutes before the shooting, to make a record of the tow.

Hebert says the key piece of evidence is a 911 call, in which you can hear the heated confrontation as Rich and his friends confront Montanez and his employees in an effort to get his Chrysler Sebring back.

"He was gonna take that car back," said Hebert.

Hebert says the 911 call gives them an ironclad timeline that will support their case.

Rich managed to get into his car.  Montanez and his employees claim Rich then drove the car toward them in a threatening manner.

"It just got to a split second decision and I live with it every day of my life now.  I just look forward to my day in court where I can be found innocent," Montanez told Reginald Roundtree.

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