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St. Louis family questions controversial law one year after deadly Florida interstate shooting

29-year-old Christopher Maassen was shot and killed in Jupiter. His shooter claimed self-defense under Florida's Stand Your Ground Law.

ST. LOUIS — Saturday will mark one year since 29-year-old Christopher Maassen of Marthasville, Missouri, was shot and killed on the side of I-95 in Florida following an altercation.

His shooter claimed self-defense. Because of Florida's "stand your ground" law, he was able to walk away. It has left the Maassen family with heartbreak and questions.

Maureen Huber of St. Louis is Maassen’s older sister.

She recalls police giving her family the details of the shooting. 

“Within 90 seconds you decide that you get to take someone's life and then you don't have to answer to anybody. You get to leave from the scene because you got a lawyer at the scene,” Huber recalled. 

Ninety seconds is all it took for an altercation on a busy Florida interstate to turn deadly, leaving Maureen Huber without her baby brother and Mike Maassen without his youngest son. 

The deadly incident happened on the afternoon of Feb. 19th, 2021. Christopher Maassen and another man got into a minor crash along Interstate 95 in Jupiter, Florida. Police say both drivers pulled onto the right shoulder and an argument ensued. 

One minute and thirty seconds passed from the moment Maassen's GPS showed his car stopped to the 911 call made from the shooter, who told dispatchers Maassen was dead. 

Credit: Maassen family

“For someone to be able to use deadly force on him when he was unarmed.... We just don’t understand," Huber said. "He was a very happy-go-lucky, very calm down to earth person.” 

No arrests have been made or charges filed. The shooter claimed self-defense at the scene under Florida's "stand your ground" law.

"My client was within his legal right and justified to use legal force," said his attorney Stuart Kaplan.

“My son was unarmed. He was shot and killed. Someone should at least have to answer questions for that," said Mike Maassen.

Florida's "stand your ground" law was amended in 2017, shifting the burden of proof from the defendant to the prosecutor. The prosecutor must have "clear and convincing evidence" just to go to trial.

"I’ve always been a 2nd amendment supporter," Mike Maassen said. "I have weapons. I have guns, but with that comes accountability and responsibility.”

One year later, The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office and the state prosecutor are actively investigating this case. They’re looking for that clear evidence they believe someone saw on the busy interstate that day. 

Credit: Palm Beach County Sheriff's office

They're urging witnesses to come forward and contact Crimestoppers at 1-800-458-TIPS. 

"I’m not after sympathy. We'll have to deal with this the rest of our lives, what I want is acknowledgment of some of these bad laws and I’m hopeful justice will prevail in this case,” said Mike Maassen.

Similar to Florida’s"stand your ground" law, Missouri state senators are considering a bill that would strengthen the state's self-defense laws by giving shooters the benefit of the doubt. 

The bill would require police to find probable cause that the shooter acted unlawfully before arresting them. Opponents say the bill would cause chaos and stress to the state's already strained court system, while supporters say it would guard against overzealous prosecutions. 

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