Family Of Tallahassee Teen Killed By Police Files Suit

Duane Strong, JR.
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By Kevin Clark
May 31, 2015

Family and friends gathered to remember Duane Strong Saturday at the park where he grew up playing basketball.

"We just don't want people to say that he's gone and that we forget him, said Jacquelyn Dennis, Strong's Aunt. "We don't want to forget him. We don't want to forget him."

Both Strong's family and their attorneys commented on the lawsuit they filed against the city, for excessive force and wrongful death.

The 18-year old Strong was shot and killed by Tallahassee Police outside the former Cheek's Lounge last May.

"We don't want them to say that it's okay that you can just gun him down and we're gonna just accept it," said Dennis. "We're not gonna accept that."

A grand jury cleared the officers involved of any wrongdoing, but Strong's family and their attorneys dispute the findings.

"They were told that Duane was banging in the cars, driving erratically, driving recklessly through that parking lot...the pictures, evidence, everything shows that wasn't true," said attorney Mutaqee Akbar.

We reached out to the City of Tallahassee for comment. Attorney Lewis Shelley backed up the grand jury findings.

"As sorry as we are about Mr. Strong's death, we do not think that our police officers, based on everything we know and everything that was presented to the grand jury, acted inappropriately," said Shelley.

By Julie Montanaro
May 29, 2015

The family of Duane Strong just filed suit against the Tallahassee Police Department on the one year anniversary of his death.

The excessive force suit filed today names the City of Tallahassee and
and TPD Officers Clayton Fallis and Derek Hawthorne.

Strong was shot and killed while leaving the Cheeks Lounge parking lot May 29, 2014. Officers were responding to reports of shots fired there.

The lawsuit contends Strong was shot "immediately and without justification." It contends the officers did not have any reason to believe Strong was armed and dangerous and "did not have a reasonable fear of imminent bodily harm when they shot and killed him."

A memorial service for Strong is planned at the Walker Ford Community Center Saturday at 4 p.m.

We are trying to reach a city spokesperson for comment on the lawsuit.

By Julie Montanaro
July 9, 2014

The family of a teen shot and killed by Tallahassee Police has announced its intent to sue the city for excessive force.

Duane Strong was shot and killed by police in the parking lot of Cheeks Lounge on May 29. Officers investigating the sound of gunfire, say Strong sped off, hit a parked car and nearly hit a police officer.

A grand jury has already cleared three officers of any criminal wrongdoing, but attorneys for Strong's family say that doesn't mean officers weren't negligent that night.

"Certainly the question of why they felt the need they have to kill him at that moment has not been answered. So, it would not appear to be a good shooting from the information that we have," family attorney David Frank said.

Tallahassee City Attorney Lew Shelley says TPD is still conducting an internal review of the shooting and had no comment on the pending lawsuit.

Family members of a teen shot and killed outside a Tallahassee nightclub last month may file a wrongful death lawsuit.

The mother and sister of Duane Strong Junior spoke publicly about the incident for the first time Friday.

"It's very hard, it's been very difficult for me and my family," said Ayouna McClinton, Duane's mother. "I don't have understanding of why my son lost his life," she said.

In the early morning May 29th, Tallahassee Police responded to gunfire in the parking lot at Cheeks nightclub.

According to police, when an officer attempted to talk to Strong, he sped out of the parking lot, hit a parked car and nearly hit a police officer.

"He wouldn't cause anyone any danger or harm, especially a police officer," said McClinton.

Officers responded with gunfire.

Family members say that gunfire killed Strong.

"There's no indication that Duane Strong had anything to do with the initial gunshots that was the reason for the police to respond," said family attorney David Frank.

On Tuesday, a Leon County grand jury cleared 3 TPD officers of any criminal wrongdoing in Strong's death.

"People comply with the officers and listen and talk and communicate then they won't lead to these results," TPD Chief Michael DeLeo said Tuesday.

But Frank says just because the officers were cleared of a crime doesn't mean they weren't negligent.

However, neither he nor family members could say why the 18 year old Strong was at a nightclub parking lot at 3 in the morning or if he'd been there before that night.

For Gariah Jones, the bottom line for her is she's lost her only sibling.

"It's just hurtful to know you lost somebody you don't have answers as to why," she said.

Frank says he's hoping more eyewitnesses will come forward.

He also says his ongoing investigation is not only focusing on police actions, but also on what he believes may be a lack of proper safety precautions taken by Cheeks owners.

We were unable to reach Cheeks for comment.

Updated By:Emily Johnson
May 29, 2014, 10PM

Tallahassee, FL - We spoke with people who live within in walking distance of the night lounge this afternoon, including one mother. You may find their responses shocking.

"I ran out of my house and I heard shots ring out and police everywhere," said Katina Baker.

Baker and her family who live in apartments near the crime scene were sleeping when they say gunshots rattled them awake Thursday morning.

"As far as the club is concerned I'm probably scared for the sake of my kids as far as it being violent and any other gun shots happening," said Baker.

Cheeks is right next to multiple apartment complexes on White Drive and residents in the area say they don't think the sports bar & lounge should be shutdown, but they think TPD should beef up patrols.

"Not letting the parking lot get slammed pack full of people just like letting them get drunk and stuff all the time and some more police officers on duty," said Delbert Infinger who lives close by.

Others have different concerns

"I don't tell my mom that stuff, because I don't want to worry her about it but I'm sure she would be very worried," said Alesandro Gervasi who is an FSU student.

Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo says officers have already upped the patrols around the night club.

"We'll continue to monitor it and provide the resources that we think are appropriate balancing out the needs of the entire city with our resources," said Chief DeLeo.

By: Andy Alcock
May 29, 2013 - 6:50pm

Tallahassee Police have identified the man killed as 18 year old Duane Strong, Jr.

It all started after a TPD officer conducting a traffic stop heard gunfire in the back parking lot of Cheeks nightclub.

According to TPD Spokesman Rob Grasso:

When officers responded, they tried to get Strong to stop the Dodge Charger he was driving. Instead the driver abruptly sped away and toward other officers. Witnesses say the Charger struck a parked car. Witnesses say the Charger almost hit an officer. Then the officers fired their weapons. The Charger then left on White Drive where a police car rammed it to get it to stop. The charger veered off the road and crashed in a ditch. Officers called EMS and performed CPR on the driver until EMS arrived. Strong was taken to the hospital and later died.

Autopsy results are pending. No one else was hurt.

TPD Spokesman Rob Grasso says three officers are now on paid administrative leave pending an internal affairs investigation.

Officer Clay Fallis
Officer Derek Hawthorne
Officer Kirk Watson

The use of force will also be reviewed by a grand jury.

This is the second time this month a suspect has died after officers opened fire. Chief Michael DeLeo noted a grand jury cleared officers in the May 12th shootout. He said these were two separate incidents and Tallahassee -like other communities - is having to deal with gun violence. DeLeo would not speculate on whether his officers' actions were justified.

Chief DeLeo says TPD has had officers patrolling near Cheeks due to recent calls in the area and those patrols will continue.

By: Eyewitness News
Mary 29, 2014 - 4pm

TPD Chief Michael DeLeo has scheduled a press conference for 5:00 p.m. to provide updates. Stay tuned to Eyewitness News and WCTV.TV.

By: Lanetra Bennett
Mary 29, 2014 - 3:30pm

Tallahassee, FL - A night at the club turns deadly for one Tallahassee man. Police say the man was part of a shooting involving officers at Cheeks Lounge when he was killed.

A man was shot and killed during a shootout with police near Cheeks Lounge on West Tennessee Street in Tallahassee around 3:00 Thursday morning.

Tallahassee resident Anthony Lowe says, "I was inside. So, I didn't hear nothing that was going on until I ended up going outside to see if my friend was outside. I seen a whole bunch of police cars, caution tape and everything. So, that's when I realized what happened."

TPD says it started when an officer heard shots fired in the back of the building. They say other officers went to assist...and ultimately became involved in a shooting.

Witnesses say they heard what sounded like at least 30 shots fired.

TPD Spokesperson Officer David Northway says, "It is always important to remember that our officers also are doing everything they can to protect our citizens. So, the incident, while it ended in tragedy tonight, hopefully it may have prevented someone else's life from being effected by this. Our hearts and thoughts are with the family members of the deceased."

Police were on the scene for hours with White Drive and Cheeks Lounge blocked off.

Police have not released the identity of the man who died; and at this time they haven't said why the original gunshots occurred.

TPD Chief Michael DeLeo has scheduled at press conference at 5:00 p.m. to provide an update.

By: Lanetra Bennett
May 29, 2014, 7:30am

This is the second fatal police-involved shooting involving TPD this month. The other one took place near the FSU campus on May 12th.

This is also the second shooting incident at Cheeks Lounge in two months. A botched robbery ended in gunfire there back on April 11th.

By: Lanetra Bennett
May 29, 2014 - 5:30am

Tallahassee, FL - Tallahassee police officers are involved in a shooting at a night club on West Tennessee Street and White Drive.

They say it happened around 3:00 this morning. Officers exchanged gunfire with a patron of Cheeks Lounge. That person was killed. No officers were injured in the shooting. The identity of the victim has not been released.

We will bring you more information as it becomes available.

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