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I was unarmed, man shot by U.S. marshal in Tampa says

TAMPA — David Christopher Sills says he was unarmed when a deputy U.S. Marshal shot him last week.

Sills, 26, said he was running toward the woods from a man wearing a ball cap and a bullet proof vest when he felt himself suddenly fall face down to the ground, a bullet puncturing his back and exiting his shoulder.

"That wasn't a shot that said, 'Hey, stop,' " Sills said in an interview Thursday from Falkenburg Road Jail, where he is being housed in the infirmary. "That was a 'Hey, we found him, he's down.' "

After Sills fell to the ground wounded, he said, an officer stunned him with a Taser gun and kicked him in the ear.

Law enforcement's account of how things happened that day has not yet been told.

The U.S. Marshal Service has declined to release details of the incident, including the name of the officer who fired the shot.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the matter under an agreement with the Marshal Service. FDLE confirmed the incident happened at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 16 at The Club at Hidden River Condominiums, just north of Fletcher Avenue and west of Interstate 75.

The deputy marshal was there to serve a warrant on Sills for failure to appear in court on a drug trafficking charge that originated with Tampa police, according to public records.

But law enforcement has declined to say how a warrant arrest went awry.

Jim Madden, special agent in charge of the Tampa division of the FDLE, said Thursday it would be inappropriate to comment on Sills' statements until the agency's investigation is complete, which is expected to take less than 30 days.

Sills thinks he was wrongly handled. "I made a mistake," he said. "But that doesn't mean you try to shoot me."

On Thursday morning, a Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Robert Foster delayed sentencing for Sills on the drug charge after his attorney told the judge Sills was under the influence of pain medication, which "affected his ability to be clear."

Tampa police say Sills sold cocaine to an undercover officer in November. He faces a three-year minimum mandatory sentence for three counts of trafficking cocaine and one count of conspiracy to traffic. His hearing was reset for Oct. 31.

Sills said the morning of the shooting he and his roommate, Corbin Sutter, were leaving the Hidden Rivers apartments when Sills noticed an armed man getting out of a Chevrolet Impala with tinted windows and heading toward him.

Sills said he was scared, so he bolted from the passenger seat of his buddy's car. "My life is in danger, so I turned and ran," he said. "I didn't even hear a shot."

Sutter declined to be interviewed Thursday.

Sills' court-appointed attorney told Judge Foster in the 9 a.m. hearing that Sills would like a new attorney. But Foster seemed doubtful that Sills was so negatively affected by pain medication that he required a new hearing.

"What is your date of birth?" Foster asked. "What is my name?"

To each question, Sills answered correctly. Attorneys for both sides then met quietly with the judge at his bench.

"I don't want you to play games here," Foster said afterward, before agreeing to delay.

Sills, who spoke quickly, also told the Times he was under the influence of pain medication.

In 2005 the University of South Florida basketball team recruited Sills to play point guard , but quickly dismissed him. Then-coach Robert McCullum cited Sills' poor attitude.

Sills studied communications at the school for two semesters in 2005, but left without graduating, a USF spokeswoman said.

Times researcher John Martin contributed to the report. Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

I was unarmed, man shot by U.S. marshal in Tampa says 10/23/08 [Last modified: Saturday, October 25, 2008 2:03pm]
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