Travis Rudolph testifies at stand your ground hearing: ‘When I saw a firearm, I was in fear for my life’

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Mar 08, 2022 7:43 PM

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The night was supposed to be a special one where the rigors of being a professional football player would come second to a girlfriend jilted by all the training. So the couple bought some Patron tequila and planned on a night out at the movies.

But the night veered tragically off course when Dominique Jones saw that her boyfriend Travis Rudolph, had been texting with another woman. Court records say Jones clobbered Rudolph, who attended Cardinal Newman High in West Palm Beach and Florida State University and briefly played in the NFL, over the head with one of his trophies and proceeded to break things at Rudolph’s mother’s Lake Park house.

When Rudolph blurted out that Jones must be mad because his potential new conquest had a better body than her, Jones whacked him on the head with the tequila bottle and warned she was sending her brothers over to kill him, Rudolph said.

Just past midnight on April 7, a group of people did show up at the Rudolph house west of West Palm Beach and a brawl ensued between the four men and Rudolph and his brother Darryl.

Within six minutes, an explosion of gunfire rang out when nearly 39 shots were fired. But it wasn’t Rudolph who was killed. Instead, he was the one who sprayed a torrent of bullets from an AR-15 into a fleeing car, killing 21-year-old Sebastien Jean-Jacques.

Rudolph is claiming self-defense and suggesting the investigators rushed to judgement failing to see that he was the victim. The state calls it murder.

Travis Rudolph, the onetime Cardinal Newman and FSU football player, is brought into court for his

Travis Rudolph, the onetime Cardinal Newman and FSU football player, is brought into court for his “stand your ground” hearing Tuesday, March 8, 2022 in West Palm Beach. He has asked the court to dismiss the case, invoking the Florida law. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

For three hours on the witness stand Tuesday, Rudolph seemed unflappable when Assistant State Attorney Alexcia Cox tried to dismantle Rudolph’s argument that he was defending his life because the men had guns.

“No one pulled a gun,” Cox said,

“That’s false,” Rudolph said, reiterating the statement multiple times during the stand your ground hearing.

The state’s Stand Your Ground law says a person has no duty to retreat when threatened but rather has a right to stand his or her ground. It offers immunity from prosecution for individuals who resort to force within parameters of the law.

After fours days of testimony, Judge Jeffrey Dana Gillen cautioned a packed courtroom to remember in life when people make decisions, they must be prepared with the consequences of such decisions. He encouraged the standing-room-only crowd, where tensions between opposing sides has been palpable, to remain cool.

Rudolph, 26, faces the prospects of spending the rest of his life in prison on a first-degree murder charge and three charges of attempted murder. If Gillen sides with Rudolph, then there will not be a trial on those charges.

The judge said his decision would be entered into the court record in writing. No time was given for when that would be.

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Rudolph testified that if he had to do it all over again, he would have called the police on his girlfriend and told them how she lashed out at him and warned that he would pay with his life for disrespecting her, something he did not do. However, he said he would not change that fact during the brawl he raced into his mother’s house, grabbed his rifle and began firing.

“When I saw a firearm, I was in fear for my life,” he said.

The state maintains that only he was armed.

Eileen Kelley can be reached at 772-925-9193 or Follow on Twitter @reporterkell.

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