Account of shooting by marshal is disputed

TAMPA — When David Sills was shot by a U.S. Marshal's deputy last month, a Tampa police officer wrote that the defendant was shot "due to (his own) actions."

But a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation revealed Deputy Marshal David Vinski said his Glock accidentally discharged, striking Sills in his back and exiting his shoulder.

Are the two accounts irreconcilable?

Tampa police say no.

Sills was fleeing officers who shouted, "Police, stop, don't move," according to a Tampa police report released this week. The TPD officer was a part of a task force serving a warrant that also included the Marshals.

Sills, who fell at least twice as he ran from officers, got up, crouched, then turned and collided with Vinski when the gun went off, striking Sills in the back, according to Vinski's account to FDLE investigators.

"It was the total course of Sills' actions that led to the accidental injury," Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said. "From his choice to flee to his abrupt change of direction, all that led up to the accidental injury."

Sills remains in jail on drug trafficking warrants as well as one felony count of obstructing an officer with violence and three misdemeanor counts of obstructing an officer without violence.

He disputes the notion that the shooting was accidental, and said he is securing an attorney.

"Why did it take 30 days to say it was an accident?" Sills said in a phone conversation from jail.

Sills said he was shot from a distance, and that he did not collide with Vinski.

Contrary to the FDLE report, he said he was not reaching for the waistband of his superhero pajama bottoms as he ran.

He said he was unarmed, and there is nothing in the FDLE report that indicates otherwise.

Marshal's Deputy Ronald Lindbak, the only other officer at the scene of the Oct. 16 shooting who actually saw Sills and Vinski interact, told investigators he heard a pop as Vinski and Sills wrestled on the ground.

Vernard Adams, medical examiner for Hillsborough County, told FDLE investigators it was impossible to tell by looking at photos of Sills' wound whether the shot was fired at short range or not.

According to a 2005 article in the Detroit News, Glocks are known to regularly misfire.

They have no manual safety to prevent them from firing if the trigger is accidentally pulled. And they can shoot with as little as 3 1/2 pounds of pressure on the trigger, which a 5-year-old child can exert.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

Account of shooting by marshal is disputed 11/25/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 28, 2008 7:24pm]

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