Governor Ron DeSantis asked to review 2016 Stand Your Ground shooting

Ryan Modell was killed in south Fort Myers in March 2016. WINK News investigative reporter Lauren Sweeney has extensively covered the State Attorney’s decision not to prosecute Modell’s shooter.


An attorney representing the father of a south Fort Myers man killed in 2016 sent Governor Ron Desantis a detailed letter asking for an independent prosecutor to examine the case.

The 20th Judicial Circuit state attorney found that James Taylor shot Ryan Modell in self-defense at the Emerson Square condominiums in the early hours of the morning in March 2016.

“I believe justice requires a review of this case by an independent prosecutor, and presentation of these egregious facts to a grand jury,” wrote attorney Mark O’mara in a letter to Desantis dated January 2.

This is the second time O’Mara has asked a Governor to have the case reassigned. In 2017, he wrote a similar letter to Governor Rick Scott.

Scott never responded.

Ryan Modell and his girlfriend Kristin Westlund, (Source: Lee County Sheriff’s Office)

O’mara and the Modell family contend that Mr. Taylor was not acting in self-defense when Ryan was shot and killed for several reasons.

Modell was intoxicated when he mistakenly approached the Taylor’s door in the middle of the night.

“Mr. Modell was living in a community of town homes where each building was set up similarly, painted similarly, and appeared nearly indistinguishable,” stated the letter.

Taylor’s own statements to law enforcement acknowledge that it all started as a mistake where an intoxicated person mistakenly tried to enter the wrong residence.

Taylor’s wife is heard on a 911 recording telling police that she and her husband were both inside the home waiting for police to arrive.

At the time she tells the dispatcher her husband had been outside, but then went back outside.

Taylor’s statements to police are not consistent with his wife’s. He claimed he got trapped outside and Ryan charged at him several times.

Eventually, he and Modell ended up two residences down in another driveway. That’s where Taylor said he was fearing for his life and felt he had no choice but to shoot Modell.

“Despite being safely locked inside his house, and securing that status on a number of occasions, Mr. Taylor attempts to claim he was in fear. That after-the-fact claim is self-serving, and contrary to Florida law,” wrote O’Mara.

The Governor’s office said in an emailed statement: “A request has been made to appoint a special prosecutor on behalf of Ryan Modell’s father. The Governor’s Office of General Counsel is reviewing.”

A spokesperson for the 20th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s office said she did not have additional comment.

Previously, the assistant state attorney who conducted the case review of the Modell shooting said he stood by his decision not to file charges against Mr. Taylor.

Attorney Robert Harris, who represented Taylor after the shooting, said via email: “In regards to the re-opening of the case with a special prosecutor, I do not see the point or the legality of it.

“Assistant State Attorney Feinberg handled the prosecution and he told me that he kept going back to it, again and again, and just couldn’t figure out how to make a case that wasn’t demolished by Stand your Ground. Why would the governor appoint a special prosecutor unless the original prosecutor was not engaged in good faith or had done something contrary to law? The prosecutor here acted conscientiously and in good faith when he declined further prosecution.”

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