The execution of Louis Gaskin was carried out by a lethal injection Wednesday evening at the Florida State Prison in Raiford. Gaskin had been convicted in 1990 of killing Robert and Georgette Sturmfels in the couple’s Flagler County winter home.
A group of several dozen people, mostly from the Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Daytona Beach, gathered outside the prison to protest the death penalty. Pastor Philip Egitto was upset that Gaskin was executed in the name of the people of Florida, and asserted his belief that violence could never be cured by more violence.
“We’re no different than one who kills people when we become killers, and this makes all of us killers,” he said.
The protest included speeches from Egitto, activist Maria DeLiberato and Ralph Wright, a former death row inmate who was exonerated and freed. Many of the protesters lined up to ring a bell while saying phrases like “not in my name” and “thou shalt not kill.”
Egitto said that he hopes he and his group could be a source of peace in the face of what they perceive as a hateful action.
“The only way to extinguish violence is with love and with peace,” he said. “We’re here to bring love and forgiveness and peace to an utterly evil situation, and an evil decision by our state to kill people.”
Gaskin, who was nicknamed the “ninja killer” because he wore an all-black ninja outfit while committing the crimes, had his death warrant signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in March. Harold Backmann, who attended the protest, expressed dismay at politicians who, in his opinion, tend to act mercilessly.
“I think our politicians should have some compassion, some understanding,” he said. “Our country was formed with love, not hate. And suddenly we have a government that hates, and I think it should be done away with.”
DeLiberato, who is the executive director of Floridians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, emphasized her belief in treating all people with compassion.
“It’s easy to understand a visceral desire for revenge. It’s easy to otherize, to try to say that Louis is somehow less than human, but that is not true,” she said.
Gaskin was the 101st inmate to be executed in Florida since the state restored capital punishment in 1976. The next Florida inmate to face the death penalty will be Darryl Barwick, a convicted murderer who is scheduled to be executed on May 3.