Original article no longer available
Charlotte Sun Herald
By RENEE LePERE
March 5, 2005
NORTH PORT — A North Port man accused of firing four shots into a Chevron gas station following an argument with another customer was acquitted Feb. 24 by reason of insanity.
Judge Andrew Owens, 12th Judicial Circuit Court, made the ruling. A jury was not present because the evidence was not in dispute.
Larry Smith, 35, was charged with attempted second-degree murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, firing a weapon into a dwelling and resisting an officer with violence and battery.
Assistant public defender Jerry Meisner argued that Smith was insane at the time of the crime because he was “involuntarily intoxicated” because of an adverse reaction to a prescribed anti-depressant.
Experts Dr. Robert Averbuch, faculty member of the University of Florida’s psychiatric department, and Dr. James McGovern testified on Smith’s behalf.
“A small percentage of the population will have this reaction to the medication,” Meisner said. “And Mr. Smith had a head injury years ago that made him even more susceptible to a bad reaction.”
Smith was arrested Nov. 4, 2003 after he opened fire at the Chevron gas station on Tamiami Trail following an argument with a customer.
According to a North Port Police Department report, Smith grabbed the male customer by the throat and pushed him against the door. The victim then ran around the front of the building while Smith reportedly grabbed a gun from his pickup truck, which was parked at one of the pumps.
Smith allegedly shot into the locked bulletproof glass door, the rounds lodged into the glass. Smith ran around to the other side of the store, but a clerk managed to lock that door as well.
Police subdued Smith with pepper spray before he was transported by ambulance to Venice Memorial Hospital for an evaluation. He was later booked into the South County Jail on the aforementioned charges, all felonies.
Meisner said Smith was at the gas station to meet EMS workers. He had called 9-1-1 claiming he was disoriented.
“If you listen to the 9-1-1 tapes, you can hear he is just totally out of it,” Meisner said.
Smith could have faced a minimum 20 year-sentence for committing an armed crime under the state’s “10, 20, life” law.
He was released from the Sarasota County Jail in December on $50,000 bond and will be on court supervision.
“He has been out of custody for a year now and it has been uneventful since he was taken off the medication,” Meisner said. “He had never been in trouble with the law before. His life returned to normal as soon as he was off the drug. I think this had the correct ending.”
You can e-mail Renee LePere at firstname.lastname@example.org.