Gilbert resident Stefan Selvy was justified in shooting a man who had tried to rob him of some beer, police said on Thursday.
Selvy, 21, spent a tense week on the legal hot seat after the August 26 shooting behind a Circle K that left 36-year-old Bobby Baughman, also of Gilbert, dead. Police arrested Selvy at the scene, booked him into jail and said -- initially -- that it might be 2nd-degree murder.
The incident went something like this:
Selvy had bought some beer at the K at about 7 p.m. and had walked outside when Baughman comes up and tries to rob him. In the process, Baughman hits Selvy in the head with a wrench.
Selvy goes to his vehicle and gets a gun, then follows Baughman the store. The two men get in a scuffle, during which Selvy gets hit in the head again with the wrench. They struggle over the gun. Baughman ends up dead in the dirt.
After a "thorough review of all evidence," Gilbert police have exonerated Selvy, saying he was justified under Arizona law in plugging Baughman. The Maricopa County Attorney's office will have the final say, but a prosecution seems very unlikely if the police won't back up the case.
Sergeant Bill Balafas, Gilbert police spokesman, tells us that Selvy explained to police officers that he chased Baughman behind the store because he was worried about the safety of bystanders.
That doesn't ring true to us, but Balafas says there was no evidence Selvy was "on a mission to hunt this guy down."
When Selvy rounded the corner at the back of the store, Baughman attacked him and hit him again with the wrench, Balafas says. Even though Baughman was unarmed, the struggle for Selvy's gun was the turning point, the sergeant says.
"That ups the ante," and Selvy's decision to shoot to protect himself in that situation is okay'd by state law, Balafas explains.
So, we ask, should the public follow Selvy's lead by grabbing a gun after a robbery and following the suspect?
"You can 'what if' to death," Balafas says. "Ideally, call 911 -- let us do that work."
Sounds like a marginal self-defense case, though not as marginal as the one we covered extensively earlier this year involving Roger Garfield, former owner of an antique store at 7th Avenue and McDowell. In that case, Garfield shot a mentally ill transient who was walking toward him (he says menacingly) in the store. Garfield's now serving a seven-year prison sentence.
The victim in the Garfield case, Robert Cain, never tried to rob Garfield and never hit him. And that, obviously, makes a big difference to law enforcement -- even when it's clear that Selvy could have driven away from the Circle K without killing anyone.