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Leon County Grand Jury makes decision in officer-involved shootings

Published: Sep. 4, 2020 at 4:00 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Leon County Grand Jury has made a decision in Tallahassee’s three officer-involved shootings in 2020.

The grand jury has presented a decision of “no true bill” on all three incidents, clearing law enforcement officers of any wrongdoing.

Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey held a press conference less than an hour after the decision came down.

Mayor Dailey Press Conference: September 4, 2020

Tallahassee Mayor John Dailey is holding a press conference after a grand jury cleared Tallahassee Police officers of any wrongdoing in three fatal shootings this year. MORE: https://bit.ly/32W1QII

Posted by WCTV.tv on Friday, September 4, 2020

The grand jury began convening on Monday, marking the first time since January that a grand jury was impaneled in Leon County. The grand jurors reviewed body camera footage from each of the officer-involved shootings.

A Leon County Judge said on August 21 the community has a compelling interest to see the video in the Holton Street shooting, in which Tony McDade was killed, but not before the grand jury reviewed it.

State Attorney Jack Campbell originally said no decision would be announced for at least a week, but made a reversal in that announcement later Friday afternoon.

Following the grand jury’s findings, the full-body camera footage of the incidents were posted to the City of Tallahassee’s YouTube page.

May 27th Saxon Street stabbing and Holton Street officer-involved shooting

The most recent officer-involved shooting in Tallahassee happened on May 27, following a fatal stabbing on Holton Street. McDade, who police believed was the suspect in the stabbing, was shot and killed in that incident.

The Florida Police Benevolent Association made several filings in court to protect the name of the officer who shot McDade, saying Marsy’s Law applied to the case since they believe the officer was a victim of aggravated assault. That case has moved to an appellate court after a Leon County judge ruled against the idea of police officers acting in the line of duty being victims.

“The Court finds that the explicit language of Marsy’s Law was not intended to apply to law enforcement officers when acting in their official capacity,” the judge’s order said.

The City of Tallahassee released redacted documents in connection to all of the officer-involved shootings on June 16. The documents for the Saxon Street stabbing and the Holton Street shooting have a large amount of overlap.

Some officers who were searching for the suspect in the Saxon Street stabbing heard “shots fired” over their radios and then went to Holton Street.

Documents about the Holton Street shooting say paramedics loaded McDade into an ambulance, who was pronounced dead at 11:36 a.m. Officers also report being at TMH for crowd control.

Former President Barack Obama invoked the name of Tony McDade during a speech about police brutality. Abigail Jackson, the aunt of the Saxon Street stabbing victim, says it was difficult to see national recognition surrounding McDade’s death.

The Jackson family attorney says they have asked Obama for an apology.

The grand jury found that the Tallahassee Police Officer who shot and killed Tony McDade on May 27 was a “justifiable use of force.” It also noted that the officer who fired those shots did not turn on his body camera that day, in violation of TPD policy.

The “No True Bill” issued Friday afternoon says the grand jury was able to review body camera footage from other officers and hear testimony from witnesses on scene, as well as those who witnessed the stabbing of Malik Jackson moments prior.

The grand jury’s presentment found that the unnamed officer who shot McDade fired seven shots, three of them struck McDade, including one in the abdomen that killed him.

Officers testified that McDade took a shooting stance 10-15 yards away from that officer and heard the officer shouting commands at McDade in a “very animated or frightened tone of voice” before firing.

The presentment notes one witness who appeared in court testified that the officer got out “and then the officer immediately began shooting.” The grand jury presentment says video evidence refutes that.

“McDade’s actions of pointing a gun at (the officer) while advancing to within 10-15 yards of the officer constituted an Aggravated Assault on a Law Enforcement Officer with a Firearm and created a situation which reasonably put (the officer) in fear of imminent bodily harm or death,” the presentment says.

The grand jury went on to say the officer’s failure to turn on his body camera at the beginning of his shift on May 27, “was a failure to comply with Tallahassee Police Department policy, and this failure should be handled internally by his Department. We find no evidence that (the officer) deliberately failed to turn the camera on, or that he tampered with evidence in this case in any way.”

The grand jury, however, recommended that TPD review all of its body cam policies and procedures to try to prevent this in the future. It also recommended routinely auditing body cam equipment, instead of spot-checking it which is the current practice.

May 19th Monroe Street officer-involved shooting

Police say they made contact with an armed suspect outside of the China Super Buffet across the street from the Circle K.

One of the supplemental reports says the CDA received a call from the Circle K across the street “regarding a subject who was bleeding.”

According to a TPD release, one of the officers “had to use deadly force” in the confrontation with the suspect. That officer has been placed on administration leave.

March 20th Blairstone Road officer-involved shooting

Police were called to the area of Blairstone Road in reference to an attempted carjacking. Both officers who responded were put on administrative leave.

The field report is 138 pages, with the entire original summary redacted.

At least 24 officers are quoted in supplemental reports, many describing directing traffic or transporting the deceased to the morgue.

It says one officer was called to TPD headquarters and told two officers were involved and would “require new duty pistols.”

The grand jury also has 12 homicides, including the Aaron Glee case, to review for first-degree murder charges.

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