The State Attorney’s Office determined that John Peterson acted in self defense.

The State Attorney’s Office will not prosecute an Ocala man who shot and killed a man in his (the shooter’s) residence earlier this year. Prosecutors determined that the shooter acted in self-defense.


Marion County Sheriff’s Office deputies were called to a home in the 8000 block of Southeast 21st Avenue shortly after 10:15 p.m. on March 30.


In a three-page memo, Assistant State Attorney Nicholas Camuccio explained that John Peterson’s ex-girlfriend had come to Peterson’s home that night and talked with him. While there, Peterson decided to purchase cocaine from his ex-girlfriend.


Peterson said his ex-girlfriend was doing drugs in his home, and he wanted his money back. Peterson argued with the woman and, during the disagreement, Reginald McKnight, who was outside, came into the residence.


Thinking it may be a setup and McKnight was there to rob him, Peterson told McKnight to leave. Both Peterson’s current girlfriend and his former girlfriend ran out the front door, leaving the two men behind, according to the prosecutor’s memo.


Peterson told officials that McKnight punched him in the mouth, knocking him to the ground. McKnight got on top of him. Fearing McKnight’s size and strength, Peterson took a gun from his pocket and fatally shot McKnight, officials said.


Peterson’s girlfriend, who called 911, told officials that McKnight came into the home without being invited and she heard her boyfriend telling McKnight to leave. As she was running out of the home, she said, she heard what sounded like a physical altercation between her boyfriend and McKnight.


The prosecutor said Peterson remained at the home and cooperated with law enforcement officials after the shooting.


Camuccio cited two Florida statutes that address the use of self-defense.


One of the statutes, the prosecutor said, notes that "the person acting in self-defense is not presumed to be in fear if they are engaged in criminal activity." Camuccio pointed out that "since Peterson was involved in a drug transaction he is arguably not entitled to the presumption of fear, but this does not preclude the fact he acted in self-defense."


However, Camuccio added: "Peterson was in his own home at night when an unknown individual came into the home unannounced and uninvited." The prosecutor said Peterson told the victim to leave, but the man "attacked him, punched him and Peterson fell to the ground. It is reasonable to believe that Peterson felt his life was in danger."


He concluded that prosecutors are "unable to disprove beyond all reasonable doubt that Peterson was allowed to use deadly force based on a reasonable fear that his life was in danger, or that an imminent forcible felony was about to take place."


At the time of McKnight’s death, Peterson told a Star-Banner reporter it was an unfortunate incident, and that he did not know McKnight.


Contact Austin L. Miller at 867-4118, austin.miller@starbanner.com or @almillerosb