LEE COUNTY — When Justin Campos shot two men outside a Fort Myers strip club last year, it was murder, not self-defense, a Lee County jury decided Thursday.
Campos, 26, of Immokalee, faces life in prison after the six-person jury spent two and a half hours before returning a guilty verdict on two second-degree murder charges. He's scheduled to be sentenced March 19 in the shooting deaths of Juan Miguel Sanchez-Perdomo, 20, and Carlos Deleon-Ortiz, 29, both of Lehigh Acres.
Campos had argued that he was protecting himself and his friend, Daniel Guillen, during a January 2011 fight outside Lookers strip club that started with Guillen pistol-whipping a man.
"This was never a self-defense case," Assistant State Attorney Andreas Gardiner said after the verdict. "This was more of an issue where Mr. Campos took matters into his own hands and acted inappropriately."
With about 25 family members and friends in the courtroom, Campos, who had been free on a $500,000 bond, was led away after the verdict.
"I'll be all right," he told the crowd.
The shooting stemmed from a fight involving two groups of men caught on surveillance video.
Campos, Guillen and his cousin were walking out of the club when insults were exchanged with Sanchez-Perdomo and his friend, Kelvin Figueroa. Guillen exited a truck and pistol-whipped Figueroa, sending the gun flying. Campos picked the gun up and chased away Sanchez-Perdomo and Figueroa, but Sanchez-Perdomo returned and punched Guillen.
At that time, Campos shot Sanchez-Perdomo, then fired at Deleon-Ortiz as he walked toward the melee.
Campos took the stand Thursday, saying he shot both men out of fear for his life.
Sanchez-Perdomo had picked up an item — later shown to be his hat — and Deleon-Ortiz had his hands near his pocket, reaching for a black and shiny object, Campos said. Prosecutors argued Deleon-Ortiz was only holding up his pants.
"I felt like I had to protect Daniel and myself at that moment," Campos said. "I don't know what you have in your hand. I can't wait to find out if (Guillen is) going to get killed or die."
During closing arguments, Campos' lead lawyer, Sawyer Smith, said Campos made a split-second decision out of fear, not a violent move to kill. Testimony and video evidence showed Campos originally tried to diffuse the situation and didn't instigate the fight.
"Unless you go through some advanced killing school or whatever, nobody teaches you what to do in that situation," Smith said.
In his closing argument, Gardiner said Campos reacted with excessive force after Sanchez-Perdomo landed two punches against Guillen and started to retreat.
"Two glancing blows and running away into an establishment does not merit killing two people," Gardiner said.
Family members of both victims and Campos left the courtroom without commenting. Efforts to reach Smith were unsuccessful.
Sheriff's deputies led the victim's families and friends out of the courtroom first, ensuring they left the premises before dismissing Campos' supporters.