Judge rejects self-defense claim in Miami car wash murder




It all started with a parking dispute at a Miami car wash. A man in an SUV pulled a pistol. Then the employer did, too.

And it ended when four-wheel drive driver Saeed Selwani stepped up to 64-year-old John Haugapuk and fired a fatal wave of bullets into the car wash’s owner’s boot – a shooting that was captured in a horrific surveillance video.

Not surprisingly, Silwany claimed self-defense under Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, arguing that Haugabook was about to point his gun at him—another case of armed Miami citizens facing each other in a public place. However, a Miami-Dade judge dismissed the second-degree murder charge, ruling that Sloane was the obvious assailant.

“Silwane was within two feet of his car while Haugabok was holding the rifle straight at his side,” Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Miguel de la O wrote in a ruling late last month. “Instead, he made a conscious decision not to escalate the situation by aggressively approaching the Haugabook, and is now seeking an excuse to kill the Haugabook.”

Sloane, 32, remains in Miami-Dade prison while awaiting a jury trial. His defense attorneys, Pat Dray and Abby Laser, say they will explore the possibility of an appeal.

“He’s confident the jury will come to the right conclusion,” Dray said of his client. “The video is very clear – the Haugabuk was the aggressor.”

stand on the ground

Florida’s “stand on the ground” law, first passed in 2005, has long been a source of contention—it eliminated the duty to back down when confronted with an assailant threatening death or significant bodily harm. It also gave judges the ability to grant “immunity” to someone they deemed to have acted in self-defence, and later forced prosecutors in those hearings to bear the burden of proving that the defendant had not acted in self-defence.

Over the past 17 years, the law has featured in a steady stream of controversial shootings involving confrontations in public, including the 2012 murder of Travon Martin in Sanford. Although gunman George Zimmerman did not request a pretrial immunity hearing, the jury that acquitted him heard legal instructions that Zimmerman “has no duty to back down.”

In the Silwani case, the judge ruled, he actually had a duty to retract because he was the first aggressor.

Like Sloane, many high-profile defendants have sought pretrial immunity, and lost.

Among them is Kendall’s Omar Rodriguez, who shot and killed an unarmed man in a dispute over a dog’s droppings; Four young men accused of beating gay men at Pride rally in South Beach; and Tampa Curtis Reeves, who shot and killed an unarmed movie theater patron after a man threw popcorn at him (Reeves was disowned in a jury trial).

In another high-profile case at a Miami-Dade car wash, prosecutors cited Florida Stand Your Ground in not bringing charges against an employee who shot and killed a potential car thief at the South Beach Finest Hand Car Wash in 2018.


The Haugabook was shot on October 22, 2021, around 4 p.m. at a hand car wash next to a liquor store at 9125 NW 22nd Ave.

That afternoon, a Dodge Durango driven by Silwani’s sister was parked at the car wash. Haugabook approached and asked them to move the SUV, because they hadn’t washed the car.

The sister moved the SUV to a different location in the same area. Sloane, a passenger, got off and entered the liquor store. A videotape showed that as he was leaving, he was seen carrying a gun “without any provocation,” according to an arrest warrant.

A video clip of Hojabok showed him pulling his gun, leaving his gun pointed down. “Two words” before Sloane stepped forward and the two seemed to be arguing. Then, as the dispute escalated, al-Salwani fired 11 rounds at the car wash owner, who appeared to be trying to return fire before collapsing to the floor.

Selwani is seen in the video holding the mortally wounded man’s rifle. According to the police, Sloane got back into the SUV and the group took off.

During last month’s “Stand Your Ground” session, the video was analyzed in detail.

His lawyers said Sloane opened fire because he saw Hojabok – who was a convicted criminal and should not have been in possession of a weapon – loudly raised his massive pistol with a 30-round magazine. Lawyers said that al-Silwani believed he was in the process of raising his arm.

“He simply responded to an apparent and active mortal threat by an armed man who was trying to point his loaded pistol directly at him,” wrote Dray.

But the judge agreed with Attorney General Justin Funk, saying the video did not support the claim. In his 13-page application, De La or his effort makes the point that in a place where both men had the right to own a gun, Sloane went too far.

He said that Haugapuk held the gun for a full five seconds before Sloane “walked” toward the man – and “carrying the gun is not an objective basis for believing that someone will fire their gun soon.”

Hojabok appeared to raise his hand to indicate a parking lot but did not point the gun at Sloane, the judge said.

De la O stressed that “nothing a Hogapok does would cause a reasonable person to believe that he is in imminent danger of being shot,” adding: “Possession and display of a weapon, standing alone, is not sufficient to justify killing a person.”

David Ovalle covers crimes and courts in Miami. Born in San Diego, he graduated from the University of Southern California and joined the Herald in 2002 as a sports reporter.

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