In their investigation of the fatal shooting of Robert Rashard Tomlin last year, Palm Beach County sheriff's detectives made a clear distinction from the start. Yes, this was a homicide. Tomlin, 22, was shot by Heath Miller, a former band teacher at H.L. Watkins Middle School.
But because Tomlin died after breaking into Miller's home wearing a ski mask and wielding a gun, it wasn't your average homicide.
"Justifiable circumstances: Felon killed by private citizen," states the sheriff's
office report. "Justifiable code: Felon attempted flight from a crime."
The felony the cops referred to was likely Tomlin's armed invasion of Miller's home. The report makes no mention of Tomlin's previous criminal history. But it's hard to ignore that history, and how it contrasts with Miller's.
Tomlin was arrested in October 2006 for domestic battery, pleaded guilty, then was arrested several times for violating his probation.
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In April 2007, he was charged with aggravated battery against a victim who was pregnant. Court records show he pleaded guilty once more. Then, in January 2008, he was arrested for violating his probation.
When he died, he was living in Section 8 subsidized housing with a cousin in Wellington. His cousin, Lakena Peete, was later arrested for violating federal housing rules because she never disclosed that Tomlin was living with her, and they both had criminal histories.
In contrast, Miller was a graduate of Howard University and came from a prominent Belle Glade family. His father, Henry, owns Miller Mortuary, and his mother, Harma, is a former Belle Glade mayor and city commissioner.
After Tomlin died, Heath Miller said the armed intruder was a stranger to him, even though they lived just a few houses from each other in Wellington. Sheriff's deputies searched for connections between the two men -- rumors abounded after Miller was charged with sexually assaulting students at Watkins -- but never found any. And they never pressed charges against Miller for Tomlin's death.