“I can’t believe that somebody could shoot into a house and it was multiple rounds,” one of the victims of the July 4 shooting on Bressler Lane in Palm Coast told the judge. “These were bullets that were five feet from my two young children’s heads, and the rest of us who were sitting outside.”
The 35-year-old victim was visiting her parents with her two young children, ages 5 and 3. Her parents have lived at the Bressler Lane house for five years. They’re in their 70s. The victim’s mother was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness. The family was sitting on the porch the night of Independence Day. Inexplicably–to them–sometime before 10 p.m., a bullet shattered the overhead lamp beneath the fan on the porch. A bullet went through a window, a den, and into a closet.
The family heard other bursting noises. By the time Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies were done investigating, they’d determined that four bullets had struck the house, some of them shooting “just above the heads of several persons,” according to an arrest report.
Jamal Nejame, 72, the next-door resident and a three-time former candidate for Flagler Beach City Commission and mayor, was arrested. He was at the house with his 66-year-old girlfriend, who told deputies she’d been napping or resting at the time of the shooting. On Monday, the State Attorney’s Office filed a second-degree felony charge of shooting into a building against Nejame, who faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted (but, realistically, much less).
He was a security guard, and had several firearms at the house the night of the shooting. Since his booking at the Flagler County jail on July 22, he’s been out on $50,000 bond. But he’s under court order not to go within 500 feet of the victims’ property. Nejame’s residence is within that 500-feet boundary, so he’s been barred from going back to his house. Since he is also barred from possessing weapons, he’s lost his job, making it difficult for him to lease another rental.
The day the State Attorney filed the charge, Circuit Judge Terence Perkins heard a motion by his attorney, Rob Rawlins, to modify the bond conditions and allow Nejame to return home.
When testimony and lawyers’ arguments were over–the daughter testified, Assistant State Attorney Melissa Clark and Rawlins, who was standing in for Aaron Delgado, made their arguments to the judge–Perkins took no time to make his decision: he denied the motion. Nejame may not go back to the house.
The swiftness of the judge’s decision, paired with the brief but wrenching testimony of one of the victims, was a passing illustration of how the casualness of gun wielding in a county where almost a fifth of adult residents have a concealed weapon permit at times results in severe consequences–and potentially deadly incidents, with continuing ramifications for all involved.
As the defense attorney, Rawlins tried to downplay the incident–almost casually so, as if it were an unintentional mishap rather than a tragedy escaped by inches.
“There’s been no bad blood between either party,” he told the judge. “I think that if my client was in fact guilty of anything–I’m not saying he did this–but it would have been just shooting the gun off in the backyard, like target, messing around, and it went through the neighbors’ house. I don’t believe that the state is trying to argue there was any intent on my client to shoot the house.”
All he was looking for was to return home, Rawlins said of Nejame, a man who, when he was involved in Flagler Beach politics, was often a fixture at city commission meetings, addressing commissioners on a variety of issues every two weeks–and at times coming across with undeniable imperiousness: his self-importance was hard to miss. While Rawlins said that Nejame “doesn’t have a prior record, I don’t think,” that’s not quite accurate: Nejame was arrested on an injunction violation in 2014 and faced a similar charge in 2009. Both times the charges were dropped. Rawlins said he didn’t want his client to be homeless.
“In fact,” Clark, the prosecutor said, “I believe it was four or five shots that were in the victim’s home in very close proximity to each other. So while the defense is saying that this wasn’t intentional, that’s certainly how it looks. I would agree that the parties really had no bad blood. I don’t know that they really knew each other, other than to wave at each other.” Referring to the arrest report’s description, she said “the family was literally sitting on their back porch when the bullets went flying above their head. There were kids there, there’s a terminally ill woman there. The victims were incredibly frightened, and obviously want to have no contact with him, and certainly for him not to have any weapons.”
The victims’ daughter, who testified, is staying with her parents at the moment. “I would not be comfortable having someone who has the ability to just shoot into a house for no reason, considering like my dad is by himself and my mom is not capable of caring for herself,” the woman said. “If something were to happen to them it would be really terrible or tragic.” She said her parents don’t feel safe, and her father still feels uncomfortable going into his shed or cutting the grass even now, out of anxiety. “I am extremely scared for my parents.”
Rowlins presented no witnesses, and Nejame himself appeared not to have been part of the hearing. Rawlins was appearing by zoom. He again downplayed the incident, suggesting that Nejame wasn’t necessarily the shooter–and laying the groundwork for a reasonable-doubt defense should the case continue on to trial: if the defense can establish that there’s really no verifiable way to pin the shooting on Nejame–as opposed to his girlfriend, who has not been charged–then there’s reasonable doubt, and the jury can’t convict.
“It’s clear that if whoever fired them I guess probably wasn’t intentionally shooting anybody, they didn’t know anybody,” Rawlins said, “but bullets obviously went into the house.” By whose agency? The prosecutor did not pursue the matter, having established that in her view, Nejame is the shooter.
But Perkins had heard enough. “I’m denying the motion Mr Rawlins,” Perkins said, leaving no room for doubts or further arguments. He immediately moved on to another case.
It wasn’t quite a loss for Rawlins and Nejame: by learning of the victim’s mother’s condition, the defense now knows that it can play on the difficulties that a trial would represent for the family, knowing that prosecutors, too, are loath to put victims through the tribulations of a trial, or even its protracted prefaces, which can last a year. In other words Nejame lost the bond hearing but his attorney laid the groundwork for a plea on a lesser charge that would most likely be a third-degree felony. Since he has not had a prior conviction, he would then be sentenced to probation, possibly a minimal jail term, but no prison. But as a convicted felon, he would no longer have the ability to be an armed security guard. And the deal would most likely require him to find another place to live.
That’s insane. He was “messing around”?? Why is that not criminal negligence? So his gun rights are more importan than the neighbors’ right not to get killed sitting on their porch. Guns don’t kill people. Idiots with guns kill people.
Trailer Bob says
As a long time gun owner with a permit to carry and veteran, drinking and/or drugs and guns do not mix…never ever should, unless perhaps if someone is breaking into your home in the middle of the night and you were watching a movie and had some beer or wine at the time.
But short of self-defense, never should a gun be used while high or drunk. And I say drunk or high, because I can’t imagine this happening if a person is straight at the time.
It is always the idiots that make the rest of us look bad, as this dude did for sure.
Well, no more permit to carry for this idiot…apparently NOT responsible enough. And as for the thought that maybe he was target practicing…BS…you don’t use a neighbor’s home as a backstop…SMH.
Concerned Citizen says
Roger that on all.
I to am a Vet and retired public safety. And currently working in an armed security position and am an area supervisor with 60 some odd officers.. My weapon goes into the holster at shift change and out of to secure it after. I also carry concealed and am careful how I do it. The one thing I stress is weapons safety at all times.
This guy was an asshole plain and simple. He knew what he was doing. And then tried to play stupid. And that stupidity could have cost lives. No one in their right mind and trained would shoot in that type of environment. Especially hi velocity rounds. Go to a friggin range.
There should have been a ton of other charges filed.And this guy deserves to loose as much as possible including his freedom. Good on Judge Perkins for seeing to that. At least for now.
Land of no turn signals says says
Don’t have a problem locking this guy up but don’t make having a concealed gun permit sound like a crime in it’s self.
The Unvarnished Truth says
“county where almost a fifth of adult residents have a concealed weapon permit at times results in severe consequences”.
What “consequences”? This isn’t Chicago or one of those Democratic-run cities where semingly everybody gets shot (only in certain areas) and NOBODY has a permit (as if a “permit” is a prerequisite for gun crime)
No one should being carrying a concealed weapon period. “THESE SO CALLED GOOD GUYS WITH GUNS” are just accidents waiting to happen, they are wanna be cow boys.
Sorry Mark, I never leave home without it. Many I know are the same. We are not gonna be victims without having a say in the matter.
The Unvarnished Truth says
YOU GOT DAT RITE! Even though I would NEVER want to bring harm to another person – but I’d take my chances of being judged by 12 than carried by 6… (or die trying)
Thank you Judge Perkins. You made the right decision to keep this person locked up.
So sorry for the terror that this neighbor imposed on the residents and near fatal consequences for the children.
Loosing his armed security position should be the least.of the consequences he should face.
Hey Najame. Remember when you spray painted your neighbors garage lights blue because you didn’t like them on at night. How could you do that to a little handicapped old lady (my grandmother). Unfortunately we couldn’t prove it due to cameras not being popular.
Karma is a bit*h. Enjoy your jail time.