Sarah Hogsed, Richmond Register, Ky. –
RICHMOND — A man involved in a shooting on Brandy Lane was given immunity from prosecution based on a Kentucky law that allows the use deadly force if a person is attacked where he legally has a right to be.
Ranford Lawrence, 34, of Titusville, Fla., was granted immunity Wednesday by District Judge Earl-Ray Neal based on what’s known as the “Castle Doctrine,” which was passed into law by the General Assembly in 2006.
Lawrence had been charged with first-degree assault, which carries a penalty of 10 to 20 years in prison.
Kentucky Revised Statute 503.080 states that people do not have to retreat if they have a legal right to be where they are, and someone else is committing a felony, such as criminal trespass, burglary or robbery through the use of force.
The use of deadly force is justifiable, the law states, if a person believes it is immediately necessary to prevent the commission of a felony involving force.
Lawrence’s attorney, Jim Baechtold, said Wednesday’s hearing to determine whether the law applied in his client’s case was an hour and a half long.
“I believe Ranford Lawrence had the absolute right to use deadly force to protect himself and others, and the Madison District Court agreed,” Baechtold said.
The man who lived at the residence where the shooting took place, Antonio Frederick, 23, also had a charge of tampering with physical evidence dismissed without prejudice by Judge Neal, according to court documents.
Shooting on Brandy Lane
According to an RPD search warrant affidavit and Baechtold’s hearing motion, on the night of Aug. 25, Frederick had gotten into a physical fight with a 28-year-old man named Justin “Crazy” Kavanaugh, 28, at a Lexington bar.
“Justin Kavanaugh accused Antonio Frederick of staring at his girlfriend and an altercation ensued,” Baechtold said in the motion document.
Early the next morning, at 3:06 a.m., Justin Kavanaugh had his brother, Charles Kavanaugh, 24, drive him to the Brandy Lane home where he knew Frederick lived, according to the RPD. Both Kavanaughs live in Richmond.
Lawrence, who was a house guest of Frederick’s, was asleep when he got a call that Justin Kavanaugh was headed to the house to “shoot up Antonio or his house and any people who got in the way,” Baechtold said testimony revealed.
Ranford, who had not been at the earlier fight, told police he and Frederick were standing outside the residence when the Kavanaughs drove up in an SUV and gunfire erupted. Lawrence said he was unsure who fired first, but he told police he fired seven to eight times at Justin Kavanaugh, according to an affidavit in a search warrant for the van.
Frederick’s gun malfunctioned, so he threw the weapon down and ran for cover, Baechtold said.
During the gunfire exchange, several bullets hit a nearby apartment building, but no one was injured, the RPD reported.
The SUV took off, and police were called to the scene. They recovered eight .40 caliber shell casings from the parking lot of 1021 Brandy Lane and four empty 9 mm shell casings in the middle of the street in front of the parking lot.
The abandoned SUV was found nearby with shattered windows and bullet holes in the driver’s side of the vehicle and in the driver’s seat head rest, the RPD reported. Two Luger 9 mm casings were found in the vehicle’s floor board, according to the return on the search warrant.
Officers learned a short time later that Charles Kavanaugh was being treated for a gunshot wound to the head at Pattie A. Clay Regional Medical Center.
“Kavanaugh was ultimately transported to the UK Medical Center where he was treated for a superficial wound to his head that required only cleaning and stapling,” RPD Chief Larry Brock said in a news release.
All three men were charged in connection with the shooting with Lawrence receiving the most serious charge of first-degree assault for shooting Charles Kavanaugh. Justin Kavanaugh has still not been located, but according to Baechtold, he has been charged with four counts of first-degree wanton endangerment.
Baechtold represented Lawrence and Frederick at Wednesday’s hearing.
“I asserted Ranford’s right to immunity from prosecution under Kentucky’s Castle Doctrine which states that if in individual is in a lawful area, which he was, and has committed no crime, which he didn’t, the individual has no duty to retreat when met with force or the threat of force,” Baechtold said.
Judge Neal agreed with Baechtold on his interpretation of the Castle Doctrine law and ruled that Lawrence was immune from further proceedings in the case.
However, Frederick was not granted immunity, according to court documents. Police alleged that he attempted to hide his malfunctioning gun under a car, but Baechtold argued he simply threw the weapon there when he was running from the gunfire.
Baechtold also noted in his motion that Lawrence and Frederick stayed at the scene and cooperated with police when they arrived, unlike the Kavanaughs.
Judge Neal dismissed Frederick’s tampering with physical evidence charge without prejudice, which means the charge could possibly be brought again by a grand jury or if more evidence is found.
The judge also dismissed the charge of complicity to commit first-degree wanton endangerment against Charles Kavanaugh, ruling there was not enough evidence to determine if he knew his brother intended to open fire on the two other men when he drove him to the Frederick’s Brandy Lane home.