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Jupiter hate crime suspect argues 'stand your ground' defense

Posted at 6:51 PM, Dec 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-18 18:51:07-05

A man accused of killing a Guatemalan man in an apparent hate crime took the stand in court to claim he was defending himself during a fight. 

Officials say David Harris, along with his brother Jesse Harris and another person, Austin Taggart, killed Onesimo Marcelino Lopez-Ramos outside a Jupiter home on April 18, 2015.

David Harris is asking a judge to dismiss the case against him based on “Stand Your Ground” defense.

"I knew I was going to hurt him, I didn't know I was going to kill him," Harris said in court Monday.

Officers say Harris beat Ramos-Lopez with an ax handle, killing him. According to a Jupiter Police Department report, Harris also made derogatory remarks after killing Ramos-Lopez saying he was hunting for members of the Guatemalan community.

Harris said Monday that only Taggart said he was going “Guat hunting” on that night. “Austin is his own man.”

In court, Harris said he was with his brother, Taggart and three other men when they walked by the home where Lopez-Ramos was and was invited to drink.

Jupiter police say Ramos-Lopez’s brother, Elmer Antonio Lopez-Ramos, told them he felt uneasy when he saw the three men approaching the home in 2015 so he went to a shed and picked up an ax handle in case he had to defend himself.

Harris said Monday that Elmer Lopez-Ramos hit him with an ax while intoxicated, starting several fights between the men.

Eventually, Onesimo Lopez-Ramos and David Harris were left and started approaching each other that night, Harris said. He claims Lopez-Ramos came at him with a pipe so he hit him in the head with the flat side of an ax once.

"Did you know that when the police came that parts of his brain were out on the ground next to him?" Assitant State Attorney Jill Richstone asked Harris.

Richstone said she felt Harris did not meet the standard of the stand your ground defense. She said Harris was the aggressor.

Taggart beat Lopez-Ramos with rebar after Harris walked away, Harris claimed. He said that he didn’t know Lopez-Ramos died until hearing it on the news the next day.

The Florida Legislature recently changed the “Stand Your Ground” law, putting the burden of proof on the prosecution. 

Judge Samantha Schosberg-Feuer said the law is unclear if the change applies to cases retroactively.

The “Stand Your Ground” defense hearing is scheduled to continue in January. If Judge Schosberg-Feuer doesn’t dismiss Harris’ case, he is scheduled to go to trial in April.

Jesse Harris and Taggart will be tried after then.