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Leesburg Man Fatally Shot By Deputies Was Defending Himself, Attorney Says

In the last moments of Andrew Lee Scott's life, he opened his apartment's front door a few inches, armed with his gun and wary of who was there at 1:30 a.m., when Lake County deputies suddenly opened fire, an attorney representing Scott's family and fiancée said Monday.

The 26-year-old Leesburg man never knew it was law enforcement knocking, and he didn't point his gun at the deputies, attorney Mark NeJame said during a press conference at Scott's apartment. Scott also didn't have a chance to say anything before five to eight bullets were fired, NeJame said.

The high-profile Orlando attorney offered a preview of the case that Scott's family eventually may make in a lawsuit against the Sheriff's Office for Scott's July 15 shooting death.

"An innocent man has been killed because the law was not followed by theLake County Sheriff's Office," NeJame said.

A 26-year-old pizza delivery man, Scott was shot when three uniformed deputies came to his apartment searching for a suspect in an attempted murder reported earlier that evening. Scott was not involved in that case, and the suspect, 31-year-old Jonathan Brown, was arrested elsewhere.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the Scott shooting and declined to comment Monday.

Lake County Sheriff Gary Borders has defended his deputies' actions, saying that Deputy Richard Sylvester - who is known to have fired shots - thought he was in imminent danger because the gun was pointed at his face.

"We are still awaiting the findings of the FDLE investigation and will not comment on pending or open litigation," said Lt. John Herrell, a sheriff's spokesman. "Our thoughts and prayers remain with the friends and family of Mr. Scott, as well as with the deputies involved."

NeJame emphasized that state and federal law requires law-enforcement officers to knock and announce themselves at a person's front door. If deputies had done that, the situation would have ended differently, he said.

"The sheriff has boldly and arrogantly decided not to follow the law," NeJame said. "It endangers citizens and it endangers law enforcement."

On Monday, NeJame offered this account of how Scott died, based on a private investigation and the recollections of Scott's fiancee:

Scott and his 20-year-old fiancee, whose name has not been released, were watching a movie at his apartment when there was a loud banging on the door. There was no peephole, the outside light was broken, and deputies were standing away from a window. Opening the door a few inches, Scott peered outside, holding his gun in his left hand.

"How could he possibly know who was there? He didn't know they were law enforcement," NeJame said. "They overreacted, firing five to eight times."

The evidence confirms that the door was open only a few inches, NeJame said. Bullet damage on the door, as well as the trajectory of the bullets that came into his home, show that the gun was fired through a small opening of the door, he added.

Copyright © 2012, Orlando Sentinel
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