Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Public safety

Hillsborough deputy fatally shoots unarmed man while serving warrant at Clair-Mel home

TAMPA — A Hillsborough sheriff's deputy fatally shot an unarmed man Tuesday morning as a SWAT team raided a Clair -Mel area home looking for illegal narcotics, the Sheriff's Office reported.

The raid yielded a small amount of marijuana, the agency said.

Levonia Riggins, 22, had been the subject of a monthlong drug investigation, sheriff's Maj. Chad Chronister said at a news conference.

When investigators arrived at the house at 1432 Longwood Loop with a search warrant about 8 a.m., everyone inside came out except for Riggins, the major said. Others who left the house told deputies Riggins was inside, most likely in the rear, sheriff's spokeswoman Debbie Carter said in a news release.

That's when Deputy Caleb Johnson, 32, a seven-year veteran of the agency, entered the house with fellow SWAT members.

"After making numerous commands for Riggins to exit the residence, Deputy Johnson visually located Riggins in a bedroom, at which time Johnson perceived Riggins as an immediate threat and fired one shot, striking Riggins," Carter reported.

Riggins was taken to Tampa General Hospital, where he died.

Family friend Carolor Jane Scott, 20, said Riggins was pronounced dead around noon.

Five hours passed before the Sheriff's Office released Carter's statement confirming Riggins' death and acknowledging, "While the investigation is ongoing it does appear at this time that Riggins was unarmed."

Johnson was put on administrative leave with pay pending a review, and the Hillsborough State Attorney's Office is expected to investigate.

Scott said the family thought Riggins was shot multiple times. She said they believe investigators confiscated about 2 grams of marijuana from Riggins' body.

Riggins has been arrested more than 20 times, according to state records. His most recent arrest was in April 2015 on charges of possession of marijuana with intent to sell. Before that, he had done jail time for burglary, grand theft and assorted probation violations.

"He was always a good person," said Scott, who grew up with Riggins. "Yeah, he smokes his weed and stuff, but he was never into anything serious. He was very kind, always wanting to talk to people, always there for you."

Scott said she heard from the family there was a baby in the house when deputies arrived, as well as other children adopted by Riggins' adoptive mother, Jesse Williams.

"He hadn't been in trouble in a while," said Deantae Huff, 22, who also grew up with Riggins. "They could have just Tased him. We just saw him yesterday and he was happy as ever."

News researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Dan Sullivan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386. Follow @TimesDan.

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