Bail held firm in shooting over Confederate flag

By Todd Ruger

Published: Wednesday, July 8, 2009

SARASOTA – A judge declined to lower the bail this morning for a high-school student who has spent three months in jail on charges he shot another teenager who was waving a Confederate flag downtown.

Michael Mitchell, 18, has not been able to post $50,000 bail since his April 25 arrest. His attorneys asked a judge to lower the bail so he could go home before the trial, scheduled for October.

This is the first time Michael Mitchell has been in trouble, his father said; teachers at Sarasota Military Academy say Michael Mitchell was a good student.

If he were released from jail, his father promised to enforce a curfew and take him to every one of his meetings with court officials.

Prosecutors say the evidence is overwhelming, and he could face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.

Police reports state that the confrontation between Mitchell and Daniel Azeff, then a Sarasota High School student, started when Azeff and a friend waved a Confederate flag as they rode in a pickup going down Main.

Azeff and his friend, whose name was not released, then parked on Links Avenue and walked toward Main Street while waving the flag and “making racially disparaging comments in a loud fashion,” the report says.

Police say that none of the teenagers used a racial slur, but that Mitchell — who was going to the movies with two teenage girls — asked Azeff if he was a racist.

Azeff reportedly said that it was his First Amendment right to carry the Confederate flag, and Mitchell ran toward him as the two girls pleaded with Mitchell not to fight.

Mitchell fired the gun one time, striking Azeff in the chest, the police report says. Azeff is expected to make a full recovery.

Mitchell’s father, Gary, apologized to the Azeff family shortly after the shooting, saying his son was scared and “made the wrong decision.”

After the shooting, Michael Mitchell ran off with the .22-caliber pistol and hid it at his father’s home, according to police, who say they are not sure where he obtained the gun.

Officers say it is the kind of gun that can be bought cheaply on the street, sometimes for less than $30.

Officers found Mitchell at his father’s home.

He reportedly confessed to shooting Azeff and detectives found the pistol in the back yard.

Copyright © 2009 HeraldTribune.com

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