When is a killing not a crime? WINK News helps a Fort Myers family get answers

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Jaylon Bridley

On average, two people die every month in Florida in accidental shootings. In our last report, we shared one of the stories behind that statistic: a Fort Myers man who was shot in the heart in September. Jaylon Bridley’s family is challenging the results of the police investigation because they believe someone should be held accountable.

“They tell you that there’s no fault, but there’s always someone at fault,” says Everett Thomas. Bridley’s father went on to say, “It’s her gun. She shot him, She’s at fault.”

Since police won’t talk about the case, WINK News Investigative Reporter Céline McArthur asked experts in the law, law enforcement, and now firearms to weigh in.

Shavonne and Everett Thomas say they can’t understand how the killing of their son isn’t a crime. According to the police report, Jaylon Bridley and his girlfriend got into a fight in her Sarasota apartment. She had a gun. They struggled and it went off. We talk to an Army Special Forces Veteran who read through the police report and offers some insight that could ultimately keep you from becoming a statistic.

Aaron Forum owns Shoot Center in Cape Coral.

“I was a Green Beret. I was in Special Forces. I’ve trained people all over the world. I’ve trained literally thousands of people here,” says Forum.

His current mission is to educate and empower people to use guns safely and wisely.

“I know that no matter how good I am, or how trained I am, because I’m a human being, I will make mistakes,” says Forum. “It’s going to happen. You mitigate that risk by making yourself follow protocols. It takes responsibility.”

That begins with your safety and the safety of the people around you.

“If you feel threatened enough to go and get a firearm, because someone’s in your home, in this case, a boyfriend, you probably should have called the police to get them coming, because the last thing we want to happen is to have to actually use the firearm,” says Forum.

In an interview with Sarasota Police, Bridley’s girlfriend told detectives she had the gun in her hand and by her side while they fought. The gun was a 9mm Springfield Hellcat, a model Forum carries in his shop.

“There’s no external safety, if that makes any sense. So, this gun is another prime candidate for always being in a holster until you need to use it,” says Forum.

If you’re fighting with someone holding a gun, Forum says it’s a bad idea to try and grab it.

“It’s not something that tactically you would train to do. In general, that’s like an absolute last resort, right? Where more and more often than not, the best choice in that scenario is probably compliance. Immediate compliance.”

This army veteran says too many people buy guns and don’t train for real-life situations that can become violent and extremely stressful. Bridley’s girlfriend told Sarasota police she didn’t have a lot of experience, saying,” I never even got to target practice with that gun. It’s literally like fresh out of the box.”

“It’s never a good idea to do something for the first time, or even the second or third time when it really matters, especially if we’re talking about defending ourselves, right? I mean, you know, it’s a good idea to practice using the fire extinguisher, if you can, right,” says Forum. “We don’t always get that opportunity. But in this case, you have all the opportunity in the world to practice using a firearm, and in this case, it really, really matters.”

We reached out to the girlfriend to see if she wanted to talk about what happened. She didn’t respond. In the meantime, if you missed our last story, you can see it now on the WINK News app. If there’s something you’d like me to investigate, email me at investigates@winknews.com.

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