Victims: Shane McLaughlin, Steven Stearns
The accused: Joseph Pupello


Shane McLaughlin

White male

Age at time: 28

Weapon: unclear

Victim photo: Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office


Steven Stearns

White male

Age at time: 25

Weapon: unclear

Victim photo: Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office


Joseph Pupello

White male

Age at time: 23

Weapon: gun


Defendant photo: Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office

Case type:
Argument turned violent




Case year:

Location details: On Tampa Circle between West Shore Blvd and Dale Mabry Hwy. in Tampa, Hillsborough County, on Jan. 04, 2007

What happened: Joseph Charles Pupello Jr. and two friends had pulled into a friend's driveway when another car pulled in behind him and two men jumped out. Steven Stearns began pounding on Pupello's car window and dragging him from his car; Stearns' friend, Shane McLaughlin, was behind him. As Pupello was being dragged from the car, he pulled a pistol from his waistband and wounded the two men. He claimed McLaughlin had a gun and he was in fear for his life; police never found any evidence McLaughlin was armed. Pupello ran off after the shooting and his friend drove off in his car. Stearns was left bleeding in the driveway; McLaughlin got back into the Cadillac and was driven by his friend to Tampa General Hospital. Both men survived. The police report says Pupello and the two men had been feuding, though the exact reason for the feud was unclear.

The outcome: The police investigator concluded that all participants had withheld information about the nature of the incident. But he wrote that Stearns and McLaughlin "if not in the commission of an aggressive act at the time of the shooting, appeared to be taking an aggressive stance at the time." On Feb 5, 2007, just over one month after the shootings, the State Attorney's office decided not to press charges.

Investigating agency: Tampa Police

Case decision made by: Prosecutor

Trayvon Martin’s death became controversial because circumstances leading up to the shooting cast doubt on who was to blame. The Tampa Bay Times reviewed other “stand your ground” cases for similar circumstances. The Times relied on available information, some of which may not tell the whole story. When the situation was unclear, that was noted.

Yes No Unclear/

Did the victim initiate the confrontation?


Was the victim armed?


Was the victim committing a crime that led to the confrontation?


Did the defendant pursue the victim?


Could the defendant have retreated to avoid the conflict?


Was the defendant on his or her property?


Did someone witness the attack?


Was there physical evidence?


Source: Tampa Bay Times, Jan. 6, 2007. Link to original source

Source: Tampa Police Department, Jan. 4, 2007.

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Case last updated: Aug. 10, 2013