Activist Tangela Sears targets 'stand your ground' law

Sears deals with watching son's killer get away with murder in self-defense case

MIAMI – After overcoming the shock that her son's accused killer was walking free, Tangela Sears was back at work.

The activist runs a support group for parents of murdered children in Miami-Dade. She knows depths of grief and anger that relatively few in South Florida will ever know. This week the "not guilty" verdict hit her hard. 

Sears wrote a prayer on Facebook: "Thanks for giving him to me Lord, but why did you take him and allow this man to walk away as if my child's life didn't matter?"

For Sears, profound loss is a powerful fuel for change. She said her next goal is to get a referendum to modify Florida's 12-year-old "stand your ground" law on the ballot in 2018. She said the jury instructions on the self-defense law helped her son's killer to get away with murder.

"I am not saying that a person should not defend themselves, but that law cannot be used as loosely as it's being used," Sears said.

Trayvon Martin's mom, Sybrina Fulton, joined her effort.

Fulton said the way George Zimmerman, the man found not guilty in the murder of her 17-year-old son, justified the violence against her unarmed son Feb. 26, 2012 continues to haunt her. Zimmerman waived his right to a "stand your ground" pretrial immunity hearing and chose a self-defense case instead. He was acquitted of second-degree murder July 13, 2013. 

Michael Mason, 30, was found not guilty of second-degree murder Nov. 15. Sears said she couldn't believe he was going to walk away a free man after the May 20, 2015 shooting that left her son, David Grimes Queen, dead in Tallahassee. The father was 29.

Tallahassee Police Department Officer David Northway said there was evidence indicating there was an altercation. When he called 911, Mason told dispatch Queen had "charged him" and he also claimed that he thought he was going to be robbed.

Mason said he had shot to protect himself from a perceived threat, which in Florida can be considered a justifiable use of force.  Attorney Nate Prince represented Mason. Tallahassee State Attorney Jack Campbell was the prosecutor in the case. They both heard Sears cry in grief when the verdict was read aloud in the courtroom.   

On a recent Facebook post, Sears was out with a group of women from her support group. They were all wearing red T-shirts. She referred to them as "a bunch of Angry Angel Moms."

The number of teens who have been dying of gunshot wounds has been disproportionately higher in low income neighborhoods in Miami. Sears, who is from Liberty City, has been advocating for legislation to curve the street violence that historically continues to hurt African-American families the most. 

When the mothers in her support group told Sears that detectives were struggling to solve those crimes because witnesses were afraid to come forward, Sears got to work. She played a critical role in the "witness protection" bill, a new exemption that helps to keep the identity of witnesses to crimes private. 

Sears said legislators told her she was in for a fight against the National Rifle Association lobbyists if she was going to go against any aspect of the "stand your ground" law. 

"I don't mind fighting," Sears said. 

Fulton said she is not alone. 

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