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Shooting death of black teen puts Florida law back under spotlight

MIAMI (Reuters) - A Florida man appeared in court on Wednesday to face charges in the shooting death of an apparently unarmed black teenager in a case putting Florida's controversial "Stand Your Ground" law back under the U.S. media spotlight less than a year after the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Michael Dunn, 45, is being held without bail on charges of second-degree murder for the Friday night shooting of Jordan Davis, who was also 17.

According to authorities, Dunn pulled into the parking lot of a Jacksonville, Florida, gas station alongside the SUV where Davis and three friends, all of them young African Americans, were listening to music.

Dunn asked them to turn their music down and, after an apparent exchange of words with Davis, he produced a gun and fired eight or nine shots at the SUV. At least two of the bullets hit Davis, causing his death.

Dunn, who was in Jacksonville for his son's wedding, sped off after the shooting but he was arrested on Saturday in Brevard County, Florida, police said.

Dunn's lawyer, Robin Lemonidis, told reporters that someone in the SUV brandished a shotgun and Dunn opened fire on the vehicle in self-defense.

"It will be very clear that Mr. Dunn acted responsibly, and as any responsible firearms owner would have acted, under these same circumstances," Lemonidis said.

She could not be reached for further comment on Wednesday but appeared to indicate that Dunn will invoke Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law in his defense.

The law gives legal protection to anyone, anywhere, to use deadly force in a case where a person is attacked and believes his life or safety is in danger.

Critics say the law, adopted under former Florida Governor Jeb Bush after a big push by pro-gun advocates, has been used to allow some Floridians to shoot and kill with impunity while also encouraging vigilante justice.

The law fell under a firestorm of criticism earlier this year when police in Sanford, Florida, cited it for their initial refusal to arrest George Zimmerman to face murder charges in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

Police say no shotgun or other weapon was found in the SUV where Davis, a high school student, was shot and killed.

Formal charges against Dunn will be filed at a court appearance set for December 19, said Jackie Barnard, a spokeswoman for the State Attorney's office for the Fourth Judicial District of Florida.

"The investigation is ongoing and we're waiting for the sheriff's office to finish their investigation," she said. "We'll review the evidence and the State Attorney's office will make the appropriate charging decision."

(Reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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