A man leaving a West Georgia Avenue bar in Downtown DeLand was shot by an apparent bystander after the man and his girlfriend began arguing in a nearby parking lot, police said.
Charles Muise, 29, was arrested early Sunday morning, and charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
The victim, 27-year-old Brandon Blekicki of Orange City, was shot in the stomach, but is expected to survive. He is hospitalized in a trauma center in Seminole County.
Muise, who lives in Apopka, was released from jail the day after his arrest, on a $10,000 bond.
Lt. Juan Millan of the DeLand Police Department said the incident began when two patrons of Cafe DaVinci at 112 W. Georgia Ave., Blekicki and his girlfriend, Taylor Drosky of Sanford, were asked by staff to leave the bar after they became loud near closing time.
The police incident report says police responded to the parking lot between Cafe DaVinci, at 112 W. Georgia Ave., and Trilogy Coffee Roasting Co., at 136 W. Georgia Ave., at around 1:38 a.m. Sunday, and found the victim lying on his back, with several people around him rendering first aid.
A DeLand Police Department detective was advised that one of the people rendering aid was Muise, the alleged shooter, who was handcuffed by police. Muise gave his version of events to a detective, claiming he was defending himself and Drosky, but elements of his story proved to be contradictory and problematic, police said.
Muise told police he had been at Cafe DaVinci with friends, one of whom was “very intoxicated and was passed out” in the bed of another friend’s truck.
Muise said he and another friend had moved the passed-out friend from the truck bed into the cab when he heard a disturbance.
Muise said he saw Blekicki “choking and pulling on the next [sic] of a female.” He told police that he “feels strongly about men mistreating women” and wanted to intervene.
The incident report says Muise told Blekicki to stop doing what he was doing.
Muise told the detective that Blekicki “advanced on him.”
“Muise told Det. Jusick, ‘then, and I regret doing this,’ and explained how he got his ‘shotgun’ out of the rear driver’s side door of his vehicle … Muise claimed that Drosky was in fear for her life, and took cover behind him,” the report reads.
Muise told police Blekicki continued to walk toward him, and that he told him “not to take another step.” He told detectives that Blekicki said, “What, are you going to shoot me?” and then took another step closer.
At that point, Muise said, he fired his weapon from his hip, striking Blekicki in the left side of his abdomen.
An investigating detective immediately found several things wrong with Muise’s version of events, however, according to the report.
“Muise claimed there was a physical struggle between Blekicki and Drosky, but there were no injuries to corroborate that,” the incident report reads. “Drosky denied any physical event … [and] did not say she was ever in fear … not cowering behind Muise as he described.”
Muise also denied being intoxicated, but the detective said he could smell alcohol on his breath, and noticed him “swaying, burping, and [he] was glassy eyed.”
Given that Drosky’s version of events, and those given by other witnesses, conflicted with Muise’s story, the detective investigating “was unable to ascertain the reason for why Muise felt justified in using deadly force, instead of de-escalating the situation or reporting [sic] to any other means than deadly force.”
A witness said Muise advanced toward Blekicki with the gun, the report notes.
In the end, nobody else was hurt, aside from Blekicki.
The weapon used in the shooting was recovered at the scene, Millan said.
On March 24, Drosky created a GoFundMe fundraising campaign for Blekicki’s medical costs, which has been shared widely on social media.
“He is currently on a ventilator in ICU after experiencing multiple surgeries and more to come. His abdomen will remain opened until he is stable enough to go back to surgery to clean the rest of his stomach out,” the description of the campaign reads. “Brandon is a loving, caring and giving [individual]. He would give the shirt off his back to anyone in need.”
By the afternoon of March 27, the campaign had raised $2,565 of a $300,000 goal, with 62 people donating funds.