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TO: RlC RIDGWAY
FROM: AMY BERNDT
DATE: JULY 29,2014
RE: DEATH INVESTIGATION OF THOMAS BROWN
According to many who knew him, Thomas "TJ" Brown (Brown) was not the same
person he was six months ago. An addiction to crack cocaine as well as a drug debt apparently
caused him to become increasingly violent, aggressive and threatening and ultimately led to his
Before his downward spiral into drugs, Brown and Colt Thriemer (Thriemer) were good
friends. When Thriemer lost his job at MOlioe Regional Medical Center some six months ago,
he began working with Brown who had a lawn maintenance business. During his employment
with Brown, Thriemer learned that Brown was selling marijuana. Thriemer sawall of the money
Brown was making selling marijuana so he began selling drugs for Brown. Brown gave Thriemer
a gun to carry during this time. It was this gun that was used in this shooting. When Brown
started selling cocaine Thriemer decided he did not want to be involved in the drug business
anymore, and withdrew from it.
Thriemer owed Brown $200 for marijuana Brown had given him. Brown began
threatening Thriemer and demanding Thriemer pay him the money. Thriemer's parents told
police that Brown said there was a bullet out there with Thriemer's name on it ifThriemer didn't
pay him the money. Thriemer borrowed the $200 from his parents and went to Brown's ho'use to
pay him back. When he returned home from paying Brown, Thriemer's parents told police
Thriemer had a black eye and a busted lip. Even though Thriemer had paid his debt to Brown,
Brown kept demanding more money from Thriemer. Thriemer's mother gave him another
$150.00 to give to Brown hoping it would keep Thriemer out of harm's way as Brown's threats
grew. Thriemer told his parents that Brown threatened not only to kill him but his parents as
well. In the month or so leading up to the shooting, Thriemer told his parents to call the police if
Brown ever came to their house because he was fearful for his life and their life. Thriemer's
parents also confIrm that Brown gave Thriemer the gun used in the shooting to carry during drug
Thriemer also told his brother, Jake Tbriemer (Jake), many times that Brown was
threatening to kill him and their family. Although Jake never personally heard the threats, he
said he could tell it was true by Thriemer's mannerisms and the way he acted. Jake told police
that Thriemer camed a gun because Brown was threatening him. Thriemer told Jake to go the
other way if he ever saw Brown around town.
Jake also confIrmed that Thriemer was dealing drugs-with Brown. Jake said that three to
four months ago Thriemer wanted to "clean up" and get out of the drug business.
After the shooting Thriemer told police that about two weeks before the shooting, he was
driving down the road when Brown passed him going the opposite direction. Thriemer sajd
Brown turned around and started chasing him. Thriemer said he was traveling about 100 miles an
hour in an attempt to lose Brown and drove to his brother Jake's house because he knew a deputy
from the Marion County Sheriffs Office lived across the street from his brother. Once Thriemer
arrived at his brother's house, Brown drove away. However, Thriemer made contact v.rith that
deputy, Mitch Sorrels, and told him about Brown's threats. While, Deputy Mitch Sorrels does
not recall that exact conversation with Thriemer, he does recall speaking to Thriemer and Jake
about legal issues in the past.
Thriemer's girlfriend, Stephanie Kirtley, also confmned that Brown had been threatening
to kill Thriemer. She told police that Brown was on drugs, got crazy and felt Thrierner owed him
money. She said Thriemer told her Brown threatened to go to Thriemer's house and shoot
everyone. She personally heard Brown tell Thriemer over the phone "bring me money or I will
find you, you can't hide for long". She also said that when Thriemer was at her house, Brown
would constantly drive by her house and "rev" his engine.
Thriemer's friend, Austin Satz (Satz), who was with Thriemer the night of the shooting,
told police that Brown had been threatening Thriemer for weeks prior to the shooting. Satz said
Brown told a mutual friend that he was "coming for him and his family" referring to Thriemer.
Satz said that Brown called him the night before the shooting and asked him for money to buy
crack cocaine. Satz confmned that Thriemer got the gun used in the shooting from Brown five or
six months ago. Satz said that Brown was buying and selling guns all the time and that he had
six different guns. He also told police that Brown always had a gun in his truck.
Mark Tharpe (Tharpe), a good friend of both Brown and Thriemer, told police that he saw
Brown smoking crack cocaine about three months before the shooting. Brown told Tharpe that
he owed people money for drugs and they were corning after him. Brown told Tharpe that
Thriemer owed him money and "he was going to take Thriemer down if he didn't pay him".
Tharpe understood this to mean that Brown would kill Thriemer. Some time before the shooting,
Tharpe was driving down the road and actually saw Brown tum his vehicle around and chase
Thriemer. A few days after the shooting, Tharpe went to see Tbriemer. Thriemer started crying
and told Tharpe "1 didn't want to do it, 1 thought he was going to kill me".
According to Brown's ex-girlfriend, Alexia Torres (Torres), everything from Brown's
appearance to his personality changed due to his crack cocaine addiction. In the month or so
leading up to the shooting, Brown became very thin and physically abusive towards her. Torres
left Brown because of his addiction to crack cocaine. Torres believed that Brown owed someone
money for drugs. She said someone called him and said "they wanted their money". Several
weeks before the shooting, in his desperation for money to support his crack cocaine habit and
drug debt, Brown beat Torres up. He also took her cell phone and refused to give it back until she
went to an ATM and obtained $20.00 for him. Torres told police that Brown beat her in the front
yard of his house while his mother watched but did nothing to help her. Torres said she had
bruises all over her body after Brown beat her. Torres's mother urged her to get a restraining
order against Brown the Monday before he was killed. Torres confIrms that Brown had guns and
said that when his crack cocaine habit got really bad he was selling guns. She told police that
Brown was paranoid about the police so he had Thriemer hold a lot of his guns at his house.
Additionally, there are two previously documented police reports in which Brown was
alleged not only to have a firearm but to have discharged it as well. Both cases ended up not
being prosecuted due to lack of cooperation from the victims. According to the police reports,
Thriemer was present on at least one of these occasions when Brown discharged a firearm.
Text messages were retrieved from Thriemer's cell phone. There are many text messages
sent from Brown to Thriemer demanding money. Many of the text messages demanding money
are followed by text messages in which Brown threatens to come over to Thriemer's house if he
doesn't get any rooney. In one message, Brown texts Thriemer "My money or you want me to
come". One minute later, Brown texts Thriemer again and says "1 am bringing Swamp Boyz".
The Swamp Boyz are a known gang in Marion County.
During an interview with Brown's parents, they deny Brown was involved in drugs in any
way. They told police that Thriemer lost his job and they loaned him $500. Thriemer denies
borrowing any money from Brown's parents. In that Brown's parents are hearing impaired and
communicate through sign language it is unlikely Thriemer could have communicated with them
directly to make any such request.
After the shooting, police searched Brown's truck. They located a small bag of marijuana
in his truck. During a search of Brown's body, a small baggie with cocaine residue was found in
The toxicology report on Brown is not complete so we are unable to establish whether or
not cocaine was in his system at the time of the shooting. Whether or not cocaine was in
Brown's system at the time of the shooting would not change the decision in this case but would
help explain Brown's behavior.
Every Wednesday night there is an informal truck meet at the Walmart parking lot in
Silver Springs Shores. The truck meet consists of a group of young truck owners who meet in
the parking lot of the Walmart to hang out together. According to most witnesses, Thriemer is a
regular at the truck meets and Brown never comes. One or two witnesses did say Brown
occasionally shows up at the truck meets. Most witnesses told police that they knew there was a
problem between Brown and Thriemer. They all believed it had to do with money.
On Wednesday, July 9, 2014, at approximately 7:30 p.m., Thriemer and his friend Austin
Satz went to the Walmart truck meet in Thrierrier's red Dodge Dakota truck. When they arrived
at the Walmart, they parked in a parking spot and pulled all the way through so that Thriemer's
vehicle was facing out of the parking spot. Thriemer had been there for several hours when
Brown showed up. According to one of Brown's passengers, Stephanie Torres, Brown went to
the truck meet looking for Thriemer.
As Brown was pulling up, a witness named Kirsten Richardson threw her car keys to her
friend Shelby Hader and said "get my sister out of here". Apparently Kirsten believed
something bad was about to happen when she saw Brown pull up. Shelby proceeded to get
Kirsten's sister, sixteen year old Brooke Richardson, and leave the area as she heard the shots
All witnesses agree that when Brown pulled into the Walmart parking lot, shortly after
11 :00 p.m., he went right to Thriemer's location and immediately pulled his vehicle in front of
Thriemer's truck, blocking it in from the front. There are no witness statements as to whether
any vehicles were behind Thriemer's truck at the time Brown pulled in. By all accounts, at the
time Brown pulled up, Thriemer was either sitting in his truck with the driver's door open or
standing at the driver's door with the door open. All witnesses agree that Brown went directly to
Thriemer's location and began yelling.
The witness closest to Tbriemer, Austin Satz, said that Brown told Thriemer "I have a
gun in my truck" and demanded Thriemer give him money. Almost all witnesses agree that
Brown punched Thriemer twice in the face and Thriemer did not fIght back. Some witnesses
reported only seeing Brown punch Thriemer one time. Satz told police that Thriemer told Brown
"you need to cut this out"and "we used to be friends". Thriemer said that Brown told him "I
have a gun in the truck and I'm not afraid to use it" and then Brown began walking towards his
truck. Thriemer believed Brown was going to his truck to get his gun and shoot him. As
Brown was returning to his truck, Thriemer reached into his own vehicle, retrieved a 9 mm
handgun and fired ten rounds at Brown. The gun contained 16 rounds, there were six unfired
rounds in the gun when it was recovered by police, one in the chamber and five inside the
magazine clip. Thriemer then got into his vehicle and drove away. Brown was pronounced dead
at the scene. The autopsy revealed that Brown was shot multiple times with entry wounds in
various parts of his body, but primarily in the back. Thriemer was pulled over by the Marion
County Sheriff s Office within minutes of the shooting. He was on his way to his parents house.
Thriemer fully cooperated with the police and participated in several interviews the night of the
shooting and voluntarily returned the following day to answer more questions. He allowed the
police to search his cell phone and his truck.
In 2005, the Florida Legislature substantially amended chapter 776, Florida Statutes
governing Justifiable Use of Force, by a series of enactments collectively known as the Stand
Your Ground Law. Before Stand Your Ground, people in a public place had a duty to retreat
rather than use deadly force. Changes in the law removed a person's duty to retreat if the person
is in a place where he or she has a right to be. Now a person can use deadly force if they
reasonably believe it is necessary to do so to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or
another or to prevent a forcible felony. T?e statute says a person who is attacked has the right to
stand his or her ground and meet force with force.
Thus the question in this case becomes whether or not Thriemer had a reasonable fear .
that his life was in danger, or if the force was reasonably necessary to prevent the commission of
a forcible felony, in this case armed robbery.
Brown had been threatening to kill Thriemer and his family for months. Thriemer had
told his parents, his brother, his girlfriend and friends about the threats. All of these people
corroborate Thriemer's statement. Most people, including Thriemer, knew that Brown had
access to many flIearrns and carried a flIearm with him. There are two documented police
reports in which Brown had a firearm and was discharging it, one of which docmnents Thriemer
being present. Brown had not only physically beaten Thriemer before but also beaten up his own
girlfriend Alexia Torres.
On the night in question Brown sought out Thriemer and physically attacked him. All of
the evidence clearly supports a reasonable belief by Thriemer that his life was in imminent
danger giving Thriemer immunity from criminal prosecution. Additionally, the evidence
supports a reasonable belief that Brown was about to arm himself in an attempt to obtain money
from Thriemer. The use of deadly force to prevent this forcible felony is also justified by the
The number of rounds fired by Thriemer might be considered evidence of malice.
However, in many self-defense shootings (including those involving law enforcement officers)
numerous shots are fired. The type of flIearm used by Thriemer could fire 10 shots in a matter of
seconds. Witnesses on the .scene agree the shots were fired rapidly. The nmnber of shots fired is
not sufficient evidence to overcome the immunity granted by the statute.
The Stand Your Ground statute makes no exception from the immunity because Brown
may have been walking away from Thriemer at the time the deadly force was used. The Stand
Your Ground law does not require Thriemer to wait until Brown in fact retrieved a gun before
he flied. Under the current state of the law and the facts of this case, Thriemer was legally
allowed to use deadly force based on a reasonable belief that his life was in danger and that he
was about to become the victim of an armed robbery.
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