|Citizens Panel Sought To Examine Deputies Conduct |
Civil Liberties Union of Florida leaders are asking the U.S.
Department of Justice to investigate what it calls a "pattern of fatal
police shootings by the Escambia County Sheriff's Office."
rights marches, state law enforcement investigations and special training
have not stemmed what local civil rights groups believe is a burgeoning
crisis in community and police relations.
"There are issues
here of policy and competence. It is the job of the police to
apprehend a person and take a person into custody," said ACLU of Florida
Executive Director Howard Simon. "When the person you are trying to
apprehend ends up dying, that's not a successful police operation."
The ACLU and LeRoy Boyd of the local civil rights group, Movement
for Change, have invited groups such as the NAACP and Escambia Sociology
Center and other community organizations to start a dialogue on creating a
citizens' review panel, Simon said.
They say forming such a
panel to review police conduct is the only way to restore trust in law
"We want to nip this in the bud. We
believe bringing the community in to solve what is a community problem
will be successful," said Susan Watson, chairwoman of the Pensacola
chapter of the ACLU. "It doesn't need to be an 'us versus them'
situation. We all live here. We want our sheriff's department
to protect us. We don't want to be afraid of them."
for a federal investigation comes after two men were killed in
confrontations with Escambia sheriff's deputies in the past two
weeks. The deaths bring to 14 the number of fatal shootings
involving Escambia Sheriff's deputies since 1994. Three of those
have occurred since Sheriff Ron McNesby took office in 2001.
Lathern Broughton, 64, was shot and killed when an Escambia County
Sheriff's Office Special Weapons and Tactics team raided his Ensley home
David S. Lewandowski, who was naked and
bleeding after an incident on Blue Angel Parkway and Cerny Road on June
26, was shot in the arm while struggling with deputies. A
preliminary medical examiner's report indicated the gunshot wound did not
kill Lewandowski. Cuts he received from punching a window might have
killed him, but final results of the report are pending.
Lewandowski was shot at least once with a deputy's Taser, a stun
device that pumps 50,000 volts into a person, but the shots failed to stop
McNesby declined to comment on ACLU's request.
Deputies Cleared In Deaths
The request includes all fatal
deputy-involved shootings since 1994. The Florida Department of Law
Enforcement has investigated several of the shootings. The FDLE
forwarded its evidence to the State Attorney's Office. In some
cases, a coroner's inquest was called. But deputies were cleared in
12 of the shootings, including the shooting of 20-year-old Marvin Juan
Hudson, reportedly a drug dealer who was shot in the back of the head as
he ran from deputy Lee Perry in 1999. Hudson was unarmed.
"Thus far, all the investigations have come back as justifiable
homicide," Boyd said. "There is no trust, and, at the same time, the
law enforcement does not appear to have a process put in place to resolve
the issues about killing someone, about going overboard with their
The FDLE is waiting on toxicology and ballistic test
results before it finishes its investigation into the Broughton
shooting. In its investigation into the Lewandowski shooting, the
FDLE is conducting numerous interviews.
Once the FDLE
concludes each investigation, that information will be forwarded to the
State Attorney's Office, said Lisa Lagergren, FDLE spokeswoman.
It should not be much longer before the FDLE finishes the
Broughton investigation, Lagergren said.
Panel Modeled After
Sheriff's Office officials took steps to improve deputy
training after the rash of shootings.
In 2002, McNesby said
he told deputies that lethal force was to be used only as a last resort,
and deputies who fire their weapons cannot expect automatic support.
In 2001, sheriff's deputies and other officers in Escambia County
completed training with the Martin Luther King Jr. Institute for
Non- Violence. That training came after an April 2001 protest in
which more than 250 people marched in downtown Pensacola to protest the
Simon based the panel idea on a model in Miami,
where a federal investigation resulted in indictments of about a dozen
officers after a number of shootings there. The voters adopted a
review panel by a ratio of more than 3-1, Simon said.
channeled that community anger into something that was very helpful
prospectively," Simon said. "It has the capacity to engage in
independent investigations. ... It is an institution to which
people in the community can file complaints."
civilian review panels review policy and recommend changes, Simon
The ACLU has invited several groups to start a
community discussion on the issue before approaching the Escambia County
Board of Commissioners to approve the panel. Ideally, Simon said,
the panel would be appointed by commissioners but not politically tied to
The panel would be independent of the law enforcement
community but might include law enforcement members.
sounds like a good idea anytime you can involve citizens," said Marie
Young, Escambia County Commission chairwoman.
should represent a cross section of the community, said Elvin McCorvey,
president of the Pensacola chapter of the National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People.
"I think that would be a good
move in the right direction if structured properly," he said.
The panel would review conduct of officers beyond arrests and
violent confrontations. It would provide a review of formal
complaints and allow simultaneous investigations of incidents, not merely
waiting to be handed the results of a police investigation, Simon
Fatal shootings by the Escambia
Sheriff's Office since 1992:
June 26, 2003: David Sean
Lewandowski, 26, is shot by deputies in the woods behind a home on Cerny
Road. Lewandowski was behaving erratically in a convenience store on
Blue Angel Parkway nearby. He left the store, stripped nude and
after dodging traffic, yelling at passing drivers and dropping to the
ground in prayer in the roadway, tried to break into a house on Cerny
Road. Deputies tasered him at least three times, but he continued on
into the woods, where he was shot. A preliminary report from the
medical examiner's office indicates he may have bled to death from the
cuts he received breaking in the window of the home of Clayton and Dorothy
McPhaul. Three deputies - Jennifer Amerson, Kevin Eggleton and
Christina Sudduth - were placed on administrative leave. The Florida
Department of Law Enforcement is investigating.
2003: Lathern Broughton, 64, is shot by the SWAT team when they enter his
house after a 2-hour standoff outside Broughton's Ensley home.
Broughton argued with his wife, who fled their house and called 911.
He shot at deputies who arrived to investigate her call, shooting out the
window of a cruiser, then barricaded himself in his house. After 2
hours of negotiations, the SWAT team used flashbang grenades to enter the
house and were fired upon. Family members say police could have
waited Broughton out. Seven deputies were placed on administrative
leave and restored to active duty pending a psychological
evaluation. They were: Mickey O'Reilly, Stanley Reed, Kevin
Eggleton, Tony Tampary, Rick Powers, Jared Seabury and James
Johnson. FDLE is investigating.
May 20, 2001: Michael
Paul Robb, 57, of Pace is shot when deputies Kevin Eggleton and Johnny
Perkins enter the Cantonment house of Lance Krieger, 35, and find Robb
straddling Krieger holding a knife to his chest. They repeatedly
tell Robb to drop the knife, but he does not and both deputies open
fire. It is the first deputy-involved shooting of Sheriff Ron
Oct. 12, 2000: Gregory Kidd is shot
by deputy Kevin Coxwell. Kidd, 32, kills a police dog and shoots
deputy Mike Mayne.
July 22, 2000: David Chaussee, 31, tells
deputies they will have to kill him. When he rams a patrol car, he
is shot by deputy James Guthrie.
June 8, 2000: Otto Fitts,
33, is killed by deputy Mickey O'Reilly while inside the Escambia County
Jail as Fitts holds a female sheriff's employee at gunpoint.
Oct. 29, 1999: Deputy Lee Perry kills drug suspect Marvin
Hudson, 20, as he runs from an undercover drug sale in the Pine Forest
Dec. 19, 1998: Deputy Mike Workman kills Timothy
Jirgens, 47, as he steps out of a Comfort Inn room on New Warrington Road
waving a .357- caliber Magnum toward deputies.
May 14, 1998:
Deputy Bart Fryer struggles with and then shoots and kills Jerry Anthony
Campbell as he runs through a Brownsville neighborhood after robbing an
89-year-old man in his home.
June 15, 1997: Lt. Bill
Chavers shoots and kills Casey Brown, 19, after Brown tries to run over
Chavers with a car on Pensacola Beach. Minutes earlier, a 15-
year-old girl had identified Brown as the man who raped her.
May 20, 1996: As Deputy Bart Fryer searches John Sexton Jr.
for drugs, Sexton grabs Fryer's flashlight and swings it at him.
Fryer fires a single bullet into Sexton's chest, killing the 36- year-old
Dec. 13, 1995: Deputies Demetrius Cain and Van
Weeks, trying to stop an anticipated pizza delivery robbery, kill Anthony
Gee after the 15-year-old sticks an unloaded shotgun in Cain's face.
Feb. 12, 1995: Lt. LaRon Summerlin kills Ronald
Pinyan, 32, after Pinyan grabs and fires Sgt. Tom Jones' gun during
an attempted arrest.
July 21, 1994: Lawrence Gotto, a
fleeing murder suspect, sprays bullets into rush-hour traffic on New
Warrington Road. He injures three deputies before he is shot and
Pubdate: Thu, 03 Jul
Source: Pensacola News Journal (FL)
2003 The Pensacola News Journal
Smith and Steve Mraz