What happened, and why was the shooter not charged in this deadly incident?
What Happened That Night?
On a Saturday night in September 2022, 19-year-old University of Tampa student Carson Senfield went out with friends in the popular nightlife district on South Howard Avenue in Tampa, Florida. He was celebrating his birthday.
When he was ready to go home, Senfield got into an Uber to take him to his house on the 1000 block of West Arch Street. According to reporting by the Tampa Bay Times, he got out of the Uber but never made it into the house.
At around 1:20 a.m., instead of going inside, Senfield tried to get into a car.
An attorney for Senfield’s family says they believe he thought the car was an Uber. They think Senfield couldn’t find his keys, so he called an Uber to take him back to the bar to meet his roommates. But the car wasn’t an Uber.
When Senfield opened the door and attempted to get in the backseat, the driver of the car turned and shot him.
Senfield died from his injuries.
What Do We Know About the Shooter?
The identity of the driver hasn’t been publicly released. Public reports redacted the shooter’s name, citing Marsy’s Law. Marsy’s Law refers to Florida Statutes that are typically used to protect the rights of victims of a crime.
What has been publicly shared about the shooter is their account of the incident and what the state plans to do about it.
The owner of the car said they were afraid when Senfield opened the door and tried to get in. The driver said they didn’t know Senfield or why he was trying to get into the car, and they feared for their life which is why they opened fire.
Hillsborough State Attorney Susan Lopez decided not to file charges against the shooter.
Case Shows Similarities to Other Recent Shootings
News about the state’s decision not to file charges came out shortly after a string of four other seemingly innocent actions led to shootings across the United States.
A car pulling in the wrong driveway, a kid’s basketball rolling in the wrong driveway, a teen knocking on the wrong door, and most similarly, a cheerleader getting into the wrong car all resulted in shots fired — and charges filed.
In each of those cases, the shooters were charged with crimes.
So, what was different in this case?
Related: Will Man Go to Jail for Shooting a Teen Who Knocked on His Door?
Why Weren’t Charges Filed?
On December 27, 2022, Hillsborough State Attorney Susan Lopez sent a letter to interim Tampa police Chief Lee Bercaw indicating that the state would not file charges against the shooter.
The letter, obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, said, “A review of the facts gathered during the investigation and applicable law compels the conclusion that [redacted] use of deadly force against Carson Senfield was justified pursuant to Florida Statute 776.012(2).”
Florida Statute 776.012 is often referred to as “stand your ground” laws.
What Are “Stand Your Ground” Laws
Florida law says, “A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another.”
Stand your ground laws say a person in Florida does not have a duty to retreat if they feel their life is in danger. An individual can use deadly force without first trying to get away.
Stand your ground laws can be used as a self-defense defense. If a person is charged with homicide, they can attempt to prove that they felt their life was in danger when they took action that led to the death of another person.
Stand your ground laws can also be used to stop charges from being made. In this case, the State Attorney declined to file charges because they believed the driver was justified in shooting Senfield pursuant to stand your ground laws.
Related: Will “Stand Your Ground” Get Former FSU Receiver Travis Rudolph Out of Murder Charges?
Talk to a Trusted Attorney
If you or a loved one are navigating the complexities of the legal system, work with a trusted attorney who can guide you through the process. Find an attorney who will fight for your best interest and work to get you the best possible outcome for your case. Talk to a trusted attorney today. Call 813-226-1023 or request your consultation with TJ Grimaldi.
Supporting Victims of Gun Violence
TJ Grimaldi is Executive Director and Board Member of The Oulson Family Foundation, a non-profit created to help kids get the resources they need in the wake of being impacted by gun violence. Learn more about The Oulson Family Foundation and see how you can help support children impacted by gun violence.
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