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Sheriff defends Uber driver in deadly shooting

Posted at 10:45 AM, Aug 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-30 10:45:58-04

After a heated text message exchange with his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Jason Boek followed an Uber he thought was driving her home and swerved in front of it on a dark stretch of road in central Florida early Tuesday morning, authorities say.

A dash camera video from the Uber shows Boek, 34, jumping out of a pick-up truck and quickly walking to Uber driver Robert Westlake’s Hyundai Elantra.

Holding what authorities said was a cell phone, Boek raised his hand and said: “You know I got a pistol? You want me to f****** shoot you?”

Westlake, 38, is a licensed armed security guard who holds a concealed weapons permit and who had just completed training to be a police officer. He fired once, killing Boek early Tuesday, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said.

Neither Westlake nor Boek’s family members could be reached for comment on Wednesday. The sheriff’s office says Westlake is cooperating with the investigation.

The brief encounter was a “classic stand your ground case,” Sheriff Grady Judd said. Florida’s “stand your ground” law, perhaps the strongest in the country, grants immunity to the person acting in self-defense. The state has to prove that a shooter didn’t act in self-defense and is therefore not entitled to immunity.

“This is a justifiable homicide all day long. You have the right protect yourself,” Judd said Wednesday, adding “this was the intent of the law.”

“Here’s a message for the hotheads of the community: Don’t do that stuff,” the sheriff said. “Good people carry guns and they will shoot you. A lot. Graveyard dead.”

Several high-profile “stand your ground” cases in Florida have sparked controversy over the law, including the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012 by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. Zimmerman was charged in Martin’s death but was eventually acquitted.

Zimmerman did not lean on the “stand our ground law,” but claimed self defense. The case cast a spotlight on Florida’s stand your ground law and prompted calls to change it.

‘He’s stalking his girlfriend’

Tuesday’s incident started with a case of mistaken identity.

At a bar in Dundee early Tuesday morning, Boek’s girlfriend called an Uber for another woman who had too much to drink, and she helped her get out to the car, police said.

Boek saw her and assumed his girlfriend had gotten into the Uber, though she had gone back into the bar, the sheriff said.

Some time afterward, Boek and his girlfriend got into a heated text message exchange.

“The boyfriend is explosive,” the sheriff said. “He’s stalking his girlfriend. He’s angry with her and he tells her ‘I’m going to eff up the Uber driver.'”

Judd said Boek drove after the Uber in his truck.

Boek “tailgates him a minute, then he pulls out beside him, rides besides him a couple of seconds …. and then starts to pass him and forces him to a stop in the roadway,” Judd said.

About six seconds after Boek jumps out of his pick-up truck, Westlake shoots him, according to the dash cam video released by police.

“Oh my God,” Westlake can be heard saying.

‘He came towards me’

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said Westlake called 911 and tried to save Boek’s life.

“He ran me off road, jumped out of his vehicle,” Westlake said calmly in the 911 call. “I couldn’t get away.”

“He came towards me, shouted he’s got a pistol, reached for his waistband.”

Westlake said he fired one shot from a .40-caliber pistol.

“He dropped a cell phone. I kicked it away,” said Westlake, who said he didn’t realize it was a cell phone at first.

Westlake told the 911 operator he was applying pressure to the wound, and that Boek was taking faint, shallow breaths.

Boek died at the scene, the sheriff’s office said. Judd said authorities did not find a gun other than Westlake’s at the scene.

In a statement, Uber said: “We are saddened by this unfortunate incident and will continue to work with police on their investigation.”

The company’s policy prohibits drivers and passengers from carrying firearms while using the Uber app to the extent permitted by local law.