MIAMI — A grand jury refused Tuesday to indict Prentice Rasheed, a Liberty City merchant who set a booby trap that electrocuted a man who broke into his store.
The Dade County Grand Jury returned a "no true bill" in Rasheed's case, but issued a statement saying citizens should not interpret the ruling as a signal that it is acceptable to use deadly force to protect their property.
Odell Hicks, 20, was electrocuted on Sept. 30 in Rasheed's store. Police had charged Rasheed with using an electrical device during a felony and manslaughter, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
Rasheed had bolted a metal grate above the front door of his store. The grate was wired with an extension cord to a 110-volt outlet.
Police said Hicks, a drug addict with a long criminal record, broke a hole in the ceiling and entered the store. His rubber-soled sneakers protected him when he went inside, but he was killed when he touched the metal grate on his way out.
Rasheed, who had been burglarized seven times in recent years, said he installed the charged grate to scare intruders, not kill them.
"We return a no true bill," the grand jury said. "We want to explain our reasons to put this community on notice as to when citizens can use deadly force. We think it is clear under Florida law that citizens cannot use deadly force solely to protect property.
"Prentice Rasheed used deadly force when he wired the grills in his place of business to protect his property. He was not justified in doing so.
"However, we find no evidence that Prentice Rasheed intended to use deadly force to protect his property. We find no evidence that he intended to kill or to cause great bodily harm when he wired the grills in his place of business," the jury said.
Opinion polls taken after the incident showed overwhelming citizen support for Rasheed.