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Ex-USF athlete in jail after federal officer shoots him

TAMPA — A former University of South Florida basketball player was shot Thursday by a deputy U.S. marshal serving a drug-related warrant.

David Christopher Sills, 26, was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital after the 11:30 a.m. incident, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent Jim Madden said.

Sills was shot in the torso, but his injuries were not life-threatening, Madden said. He was booked into the Orient Road Jail about 4 p.m. Friday, after being treated at St. Joseph's. He is being held without bail.

Details of the shooting remained sketchy Friday, as the U.S. Marshals Service referred questions to the FDLE, which is investigating the matter.

It happened at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at the Club at Hidden River Condominiums at 13568 Cypress Glenn Lane, north of Fletcher Avenue and west of Interstate 75, Madden confirmed.

Deputy U.S. Marshal Dan Winfield declined to name the federal officer involved. Madden said he did not have that information.

Neither would say what exactly led to the shooting.

State records indicate that Sills, 4807 Bristol Bay Way in Tampa, has been arrested before. In 2005, he served a month in jail after being charged by University of South Florida police with battery and marijuana possession.

A police report at the time indicated that he shoved a USF parking patroller who was placing a boot on his car in the parking lot adjacent to the Bulls' basketball arena. Officers said they found marijuana in his impounded car.

A former junior point guard for the USF Bulls, Sills was dismissed from the team in 2005, with then-coach Robert McCullum citing Sills' poor attitude and behavior. Sills studied communications at USF for two semesters, from May until December 2005, and left without graduating, USF spokeswoman Lara Wade said.

Sills' most recent arrest came in January, when he was charged with trafficking in cocaine. Tampa police spokeswoman Laura McElroy said a warrant had been issued for Sills' arrest after he sold cocaine to an undercover officer in November.

On Thursday, when the shooting occurred, the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force was serving a TPD-originated warrant for failure to appear in court on those charges, McElroy said.

Local agencies such as the Tampa police and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office routinely inform the public any time an officer is involved in using deadly force. Adria Harper of the First Amendment Foundation said that while this is customary, it is a courtesy and not required by law.

Winfield said the U.S. marshals have no obligation to notify the public.

"I think a better question is, 'Why do local agencies release that information?' " Winfield said. "While an investigation is going on, it's not fair to anyone to put information out there."

Lucy Dalglish of the Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the Press said that, indeed, federal public records laws do not require that the public be informed when a federal law enforcement agent shoots someone.

But the FDLE falls under Florida's public records laws, which require that it produce public records upon request.

Asked why no one at the FDLE thought to notify the media on Thursday, Madden said, "The reality is because it's a federal agency. There is no standard protocol for notification of the press."

Times researcher John Martin contributed to this report.

Ex-USF athlete in jail after federal officer shoots him 10/17/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 20, 2008 6:19pm]
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