A Florida Uber driver’s split-second decision to use deadly force last week against an enraged motorist was justified, say local authorities.
Footage captured on 38-year-old Robert Westlake’s dash cam tells the tale. It shows 34-year-old Jason Boek approach the ride-share driver and verbally threaten him, after using his truck to force Westlake’s Hyundai Elantra to a complete stop on the side of the road.
“You know I got a pistol?” An angry Boek says, holding an object, as he marches toward a confused Westlake. “You want me to f****** shoot you?”
Fearing for his life, Westlake fired a single shot from his .40-caliber pistol.
“All that went through my head was I’m not getting shot and that’s when I popped up,” Westlake Told ABC Action News.
Text messaging recovered by investigators indicated that Boek was feuding with his girlfriend that night. He mistakenly believed that Westlake had picked her up when, in fact, she had called the Uber for a friend who had too much to drink.
“The boyfriend is explosive,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. “He’s stalking his girlfriend. He’s angry with her, and he tells her, ‘I’m going to eff up the Uber driver.'”
Boek “tailgates him a minute, then he pulls out beside him, rides besides him a couple of seconds … and then starts to pass him and forces him to a stop in the roadway,” explained Judd.
Approximately six seconds after stopping Westlake, Boek would be on the ground fighting for his life. He would not make it.
Authorities said that Boek did not have a weapon on his person. That it was a cell phone in his hand. But there was no way for Westlake to know that.
“I thought for a moment that I hit it in a spot where he could survive. I thought for a moment after doing compressions (that) I had him back,” Westlake told WFTS.
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Sheriff Judd called the fatal encounter a “classic stand your ground case,” invoking the law that allows citizens to use lethal force, without a duty to retreat or flee the danger, if they reasonably fear for their life.
“This is a justifiable homicide all day long. You have the right protect yourself,” Sheriff Judd said Wednesday. “This was the intent of the law.”
Judd also had something to say to folks who have a tendency to lose their cool.
“Here’s a message for the hotheads of the community: Don’t do that stuff,” Judd said. “Good people carry guns and they will shoot you. A lot. Graveyard dead.”
Westlake, a security guard and licensed concealed carrier, was introspective following the shooting.
“Everybody tells me what I did was right, but you feel like, ‘did I have to?’ after the fact,” he said. “I wish the whole chain of events didn’t happen.”
“Everything I do now I’m going to be reminded that this other person doesn’t get to do it,” he added. “So it’s hard to enjoy some things.”
Prosecutors will make the final call on whether Westlake faces any charges. But it doesn’t look likely. GunsAmerica reached out to one of our attorney friends from the “Ask an Attorney” series and inquired whether the shooting was justified, and the response was, “Absolutely.”
Meanwhile, Lyft and Uber have suspended Westlake from using the apps. Both companies ask drivers and passengers not to carry while using the ride-share service. Westlake believes he won’t be allowed to return to work.