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Monday, December 8, 2014

FLORIDA - Deconstructing The Tipton Whitewash

More and more with the passage of time, State Attorney Angela Corey (above) and Assistant State Attorney Brian Brady’s  official account of the homicide of Black Piston Zachariah “Nas T” Tipton by Iron Order prospect Kristopher Stone looks like a whitewash.
Stone shot and killed Tipton outside Nippers Beach Grille last June 26. After stonewalling the public and the press about their investigation for 134 days, Corey and Brady announced Stone would not be charged “with any crime.” Brady explained that Stone had been the victim of an unprovoked attack by multiple opponents, that the Black Pistons were “muscle” for the American Outlaws Association and that the attack was the fruit of the Iron Order’s refusal to pay a “tax” to the Outlaws
In the State of Florida’s official summation of the shooting titled “State Attorney Review Justifiable Homicide and Justifiable Use of Deadly Force By A Citizen,” witness statements collected by investigators in the hours after the shooting were interpreted and summarized in a way that seemed to provide Stone with an airtight alibi.
The report includes summaries of statements made by eleven witnesses including Stone and another Iron Order prospect named Tim White. One of the witnesses cited in the State Attorney’s official disposition of the homicide was a woman named  Darlene Forkel. Using legally obtained documents, The Aging Rebel has compared three successive versions of what Forkel told police and concluded that Corey and Brady glossed over what might have been the most significant factor in deciding whether to charge Stone with murder.

Version One

In a signed, hand written statement given to police at 11:15 p.m., about three hours after Tipton was fatally wounded, Forkel said:
“Myself and boyfriend arrived at nippers around 8 p.m. We drove up and down road to find parking for bike. There were two ladies ahead of us on bikes also and five guys passed us the other way as we were getting ready to park. We walked inside and I said Hi to some friends. I was there about seven or eight minutes and I realized I left my phone on my bike. I walked to the front and was going to the left. There were two men fighting on the ground to the right between two bikes. I continue to walk left and heard a sound like a firecracker and as I turned back to the right the man on the left was standing but off balance and falling backwards and the man on the right had a gun and shot more shots as the man on the left was falling. The man on the right moved to the head of where the man was laying on the ground. The man had blood on his nose and mouth area. He was holding his face and other men past him came walking to him and someone asked what he did and he stated he shot him. There was a couple of men near the man that shot the guy. All were wearing Iron Order vests. There was a lady came from behind me and ran to the guy that was shot and began CPR and a man also from behind me and began helping her. There was now a crowd around the shooting area and I walked back inside to where my boyfriend was and let him know what had happened.”

Version Two

Forkel wrote her statement at the Jacksonville Beach Police Department. The official account of the Forkel’s interview differs from her written statement in both subtle and obvious ways. That report of the interview states:
“Forkel stated she arrived to Nippers approximately seven minutes before the altercation. Forkel advised she and her boyfriend parked their motorcycles near the Nippers valet stand (which was located east of the altercation). Forkel said after parking their motorcycles they walked down the sidewalk in front of Nippers, and entered the restaurant through the front doors. Forkel stated she did not notice any altercation before entering Nippers. Once inside Nippers Forkel noticed she had left her cell phone on her motorcycle, and she went to retrieve it by herself.
“Forkel stated when she excited the front doors of Nippers she immediately observed two males fighting approximately 20 feet to the southwest of her location. Forkel said she observed one male laying on his back on the ground, and the second male was on top. Forkel advised she observed the male on top was repeatedly striking the male on the ground over and over again with right fists. Forkel advised she turned and began walking east toward her motorcycle, and at this time her back was to the two males fighting. Forkel said she took about three steps, and that is when she heard the first gun shot. Forkel advised she immediately turned around and she observed the male that was on top coming off the male that was laying on the ground. Forkel stated she observed the male that was on top falling backwards, and the male that was on the bottom stand up and fire approximately four to five shots at the male that was falling backwards. The male that was being shot at fell to the ground and did not get back up. Forkel said she then observed a group of males approach the shooter, and they were all wearing Iron Order vests. Forkel advised the shooter was also wearing an Iron Order vest. The male that was shot was also wearing a vest, but Forkel could not say if there was anything on the back.
“When the group of males approached the shooter Forkel heard him say ‘I shot him.’ Forkel said the shooter was a white male with short hair, blue jeans, wearing a blue bandana, an Iron Order vest, in his 20’s, five feet nine, and 190 to 200 pounds. Forkel further stated she observed blood on the shooter’s face. Forkel stated she observed the shooter walk over to a light pole lean against the pole. She later observed police officers place the shooter into hand cuffs, and walk him toward a police car. Forkel advised she then went back inside Nippers and told her boyfriend what happened. Forkel stated she and her boyfriend do not know either the shooter or the victim.
“Forkel willingly filled out and signed a witness statement. I have nothing further to add to Forkel’s interview.”

Version Three

The third account of Tipton’s death is both the briefest and is the final, official version of Forkel’s statement. It reads:
“Darlene Forkel was a patron at Nippers. She was exiting Nippers to get her phone on her motorcycle. She saw men fighting on the ground. One man was on top repeatedly striking the man on the ground (Kristopher Stone). She says the shooter was on the ground and pushed the deceased off him and shot at the same time. She heard four to five shots. Afterwards she heard the shooter say “I shot him” as he had blood on his face.”
The most important legal question the three versions of Forkel’s statement raise, is whether Zachariah Tipton was standing and backing away from Stone the first time he was shot or, instead, was on top of Stone and assaulting him. It might seem trivial, but it is the bright and shining line that separates murder from self defense. If Tipton was in fact standing and backing away from Stone when Stone shot him, as several informed sources speaking on condition of anonymity have told The Aging Rebel since last July, Stone should have been charged with murder. The official account never suggests that Tipton might have been backing away when he was shot although that’s what Forkel stated. “…the man on the left was standing but off balance and falling backwards and the man on the right had a gun and shot more shots as the man on the left was falling.”

A second question parallels the first one. If, based on eyewitness statements, there was probable cause to believe that Tipton had stopped hitting Stone and was backing away when he was killed, why did Angela Corey and Brian Brady cover that up?