The 24-year-old Apalachicola man who shot and killed an unarmed intruder onto his front yard last week, does not face arrest by the sheriff’s office.
Sheriff Mike Mock on Monday morning informed relatives of his conclusion that Ronald Joseph Page, 24, would not be charged in the April 3 shooting death of Charles Thomas Wayne Fasbenner Jr. The 20-year-old had entered Page’s yard at 277 Timothy Simmons Road minutes before 9:45 p.m., when Page’s mother, JoAnna Page, called 911 to alert them that her son had shot a man.
Minutes later, Apalachicola Sgt. Wesley Creamer and Officer Ginger Creamer had arrived on the cul-de-sac, around a secluded curve off 25th Street, to find Fasbenner dying from a single gunshot wound to the chest. Emergency medical personnel did not transport the young man to the hospital, as he had expired despite their frantic effort to apply CPR.
The bewildering shock that a well-liked young man, a towering lineman on the Seahawk football team, regarded as a good friend by his classmates in the FCHS Class of 2012, was dead from what so far appears to have been a tragic series of miscommunications spread quickly throughout the county like torrential rain.
Bubba’s parents, Charles and Cindy Fasbenner, the grandparents who raised him, Buddy Wayne and Carolyn Butler, and Bubba’s sister, Heather Maxwell, anchored a benefit Monday in Eastpoint that will help the family defray the cost of Wednesday’s funeral at the Pentecostal Holiness Church in Apalachicola. Burial was to follow in Magnolia Cemetery, next to Bubba’s brother, Darin Wallace, who died as an infant.
‘We want justice for our young man’
Dressed in civilian clothes, Mock came in person at the outset of the benefit, and spoke at length in his sports utility vehicle with Buddy Wayne Butler. The sheriff shared with Bubba’s grandfather the conclusions reached by he and the investigators, a team led by Detectives Brett Johnson and Duane Cook.
Afterwards, Butler said he was not pleased with Mock’s finding, just three days after the shooting, that there would be no arrest.
“He was telling me it was justified by him being in the yard,” said Butler. “I told him I wasn’t happy with it. I don’t like it. I don’t think anybody has the right to kill somebody because they’re in your yard, unless they threaten you. Just to shoot somebody in your yard, I don’t think that’s justified, unless his life was threatened by him.
“I told the sheriff I don’t like the way things are turning out,” he said. “We want justice for our young man. My grandson can’t tell his story because he’s not around.”
At an interview Tuesday morning, conducted together with Johnson, Mock stressed that his decision does not mean the investigation is over.
“People think we’re done with this case. That’s not the case,” said the sheriff. “The case is not closed by any means.”
In a written release dated April 7, the sheriff’s office summarized its report of the investigation, and Mock and Johnson filled in details during the interview as they recounted what happened.
“Right now we feel like we do,” said Mock, when asked whether investigators had a clear idea of what happened that night.
Page said he was alerted by the sound of someone entering the gate of the chain link fence that surrounds the yard. “He had a window open at the home. He heard some noise and looked out and seen him and went to the front door,” said Mock.
Page told investigators he asked what Fasbenner was doing on his property, but received no verbal response. “You need help or something?” Page recalled saying.
He also told investigators that he went back into the residence to retrieve a .22-caliber rifle and stepped out on the porch to confront Fasbenner. Page told investigators he knew Fasbenner when they were young boys, but hadn’t seen him in eight years and did not recognize him during the confrontation.
Page said Fasbenner started towards him, and that he continued in Page’s direction despite what the release termed “several verbal commands” from the homeowner.
“He fired a warning shot at his feet,” said Johnson. “(Fasbenner) stopped for a second, and smiled at Mr. Page. He tried to reach for the gun, and at the second step of the porch, after Mr. Page backed up half a step, and when he reached for the gun,” the homeowner fired the lethal shot.
“He ran inside, put the gun down in the house and asked his mother to call 911,” said the detective. The Pages said they ran outside with paper towels to apply pressure to the wound, but stopped when police and emergency medical personnel arrived on the scene.
No blood test given to shooter
Mock said Capt. Brad Segree was on the scene with the team of officers. The sheriff said Page was handcuffed and placed in a patrol car, and later questioned by Johnson as part of an investigation that included speaking separately with Mrs. Page as well as neighbors. Page was released later that night, and was not asked to submit to a blood draw, Johnson said.
Toxicology tests on Fasbenner’s blood were conducted as part of the Leon County medical examiner’s post-mortem examination in Tallahassee. Those results are expected in the next six to seven weeks.
The detective said Mrs. Page “could hear her son talking” but had not witnessed the shooting. He said there were no eyewitnesses, although several neighbors said they heard the two shots, and described them as being about 10 to 15 seconds apart.
Johnson said investigators have not recovered the bullet Page said he fired as a warning shot. No weapon or other criminal implement was found on Fasbenner.
Johnson said investigators looked into Page’s background, which includes a misdemeanor conviction for which he is on county probation, but no felony convictions which would bar him from possessing a firearm.
The detective said Page told him he wrote a letter to Fasbenner’s family, but whether it was sent was unclear. “He was crying,” said Johnson. “He’s remorseful, very remorseful. He’s still upset about that.”
Mock said he must act based on the law, not his personal thought or feelings, and that the law protects the right of Page to act as he did.
“He had a right to defend his home, Mr. Page did. If they feel threatened or they’re scared, they have the right,” said the sheriff. “It’s a terrible situation. It’s a tough time. I feel like what we have right now is that he was defending his home.”
Mock and Johnson both said the home’s isolated location, and the time of night, figured into investigators’ analysis of the circumstances surrounding the situation.
“It’s all based on what Mr. Page believes,” said Johnson. “He was in fear of his life.”
Stand Your Ground ‘potentially pertinent’
Mock said he could not answer as to why Page did not call 911 when he first noticed Fasbenner on the property, and after he was non-verbal to Page. “It was absolutely a time for law enforcement,” said the sheriff. “There’s no way to know why, only he (Page) knows that. That would be a question he would have to answer.”
Mock said investigators remained in contact with Assistant State Attorney Jarred Patterson throughout their work, and in the written release wrote “both came to the conclusion that there would be no charges filed based on the information at this time.”
Patterson said he spoke with State Attorney Willie Meggs Friday morning, to inform him about the shooting. Patterson said he planned to meet Wednesday with Mock to go over his findings, and at that time the prosecutor’s office would review the case to determine whether or not to take any further action in the case.
“That is not a decision I would make unilaterally without discussing it with Mr. Meggs,” said Patterson Tuesday afternoon. “The case is still ongoing, that’s where we are. Our (the state attorney’s office’s) decision has not been made. That hasn’t been determined yet, as far as we’re concerned.”
Patterson said Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” laws are “potentially pertinent” to the case, but he declined to elaborate on the matter until his office has had to review the sheriff’s findings.
Mock said investigators are also probing Fasbenner’s whereabouts and prior behavior that evening. The family believes that Fasbenner may have gotten lost while walking back to his grandparents’ house at 47 Pine Avenue.
‘He was quiet, and led by example’
At Monday’s benefit, his grandmother recounted a “teeny, scrawny little thing” who had grown into a tall, strong young man, who had a happy childhood and never gave his grandparents the least bit of trouble.
Chris Granger, who played linebacker alongside Fasbenner during his high school years, and ran as a fullback through holes punched by the hard-hitting lineman, said “he was a good guy to play with, for sure. He was quiet, and kind of led by example,”
After graduation, Fasbenner had made plans to attend Tallahassee Community College, but lacked the funds, and went to work as cook at “That Place on 319,” a restaurant owned by Mike Keller in Crawfordville.
It was while there that he met the love of his life, Brittany Lewis, a 2012 Wakulla High School grad, and the two made plans to marry. Fasbenner’s long-term plans were to become a correctional officer.
His short-term plans were to attend Saturday evening’s prom with his cousin, Franklin County High School junior Gracyn Butler, who were like brother and sister.
On the Wednesday before the shooting, he had rented his tuxedo, and on Friday he was to pick it up.