Clear79° WeatherClear79° Weather

Teen shot by St. Petersburg officer who was investigating report of stolen vehicles

ST. PETERSBURG — Just after sunrise Monday, Joann Grant heard gunshots.

"There were four of them," she said. "Pow. Pow. Pow. Pow. They woke me up."

Grant, 51, went outside and saw a silver Ford F-150 smashed into a car several houses down. Its driver was not moving. Within moments, police officers swarmed the neighborhood.

"That's how I knew what happened," she said. "The police shot that boy."

On Monday night, that boy, Quade L. Everett, 17, of St. Petersburg, was in critical condition at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg.

It was the 10th time this year that a St. Petersburg police officer had shot someone, an unusually high number that has alarmed some community leaders and residents — especially considering officers in three of the shootings were found to have made mistakes. In one case, an officer was fired.

Seven of the police shootings this year have resulted in a death. There was one fatal police shooting in the city last year and two in 2011.

Authorities said Everett was trying to flee in the truck, stolen the night before, when rookie police Officer Brian Fernandez fired his gun. Fernandez told investigators the truck was coming toward him.

It will likely take weeks or months for authorities to reach conclusions about what happened. But scrutiny of the incident started almost immediately.

Monday's shooting was the third time this year that officers have shot at moving cars, which is generally against policy and, in one case, led to an officer's firing several months ago. And it comes just days after police Chief Chuck Harmon, who retires next month, tightened the agency's use-of-force policy.

"Shootings are serious matters to us," acting police Chief David DeKay said Monday evening. "We recognize the numbers are high. It's what's behind them that matters. … We review each one."

According to police spokesman Bill Proffitt, police received reports just after 7 a.m. that a Ford F-150 and a GMC Envoy were missing from a driveway on Tanglewood Drive NE. One of the vehicles had an Apple iPad inside. The owners tracked their tablet using GPS to an address near 20th Avenue S and 11th Street.

A bulletin went out over the radio. Fernandez responded first. When he arrived, he saw people removing belongings from several stolen cars parked in the front yard of a duplex at 2007 and 2011 11th St. S, police said.

"It looks like maybe there was a crew working last night," Proffitt said, "and this was where they all met."

Fernandez, who was sworn in this summer, approached and everyone scattered.

Everett was in the Ford, and was struck by at least one bullet. The teen, who has a history of juvenile arrests, had life-threatening injuries.

On Monday afternoon, several hours after the shooting, police said in a statement the truck was backed up in the front yard of the duplex, and that Everett drove it toward Fernandez.

The policy banning firing into moving vehicles spells out some exceptions, but they apply only if someone in the car is threatening officers with a gun. Police did not say if Everett had one.

Another department policy instructs officers not to put themselves in harm's way by stepping in front of a vehicle.

Police did not have any eyewitnesses, Proffitt said. Another officer was responding, but was coming around the corner when the shots were fired.

"He heard the shots but he didn't see," Proffitt said, adding that detectives are looking for people who ran from the house.

After Everett was shot, the Ford crashed into a white Nissan Rogue parked on the street in front of the duplex.

As the neighborhood began to wake Monday, residents gathered in groups behind the crime scene tape and tried to piece together what happened.

"Something ain't right," Grant said. "Did they have to shoot him?"

Just last week, Harmon tightened the agency's use of force policy and made it mandatory for officers to see who they are shooting at.

Harmon made the change after a shooting in September in which a suicidal man pointed a gun at officers and was shot and killed. Investigators determined some of the officers who shot at the man didn't have a clear view of him at the time.

Many of the shootings this year have involved people with mental illnesses getting into confrontations with officers.

Fernandez, 29, is a probationary officer, though he has been solo for a couple of months, Proffitt said. He was called "friendly and courteous" in his first and only evaluation. The only discipline in his record is a reprimand for being tardy or absent for training at the academy.

As is standard in all officer-involved shootings, Fernandez has been placed on administrative leave with pay during overlapping investigations by police and the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office.

Records show Everett has a juvenile arrest record for burglary-related crimes, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Police said his record also includes charges of auto theft, fleeing police and aggravated assault on an officer.

In July 2012, he was part of a group of teens caught in a wild midday chase through the city. Police said the group had broken into some homes.

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@tampabay.com or (727)893-8643.

Use of force

Other St. Petersburg police shootings this year

March 8 — Officers were using a search warrant to go into a suspected drug house at 3810 18th Ave. S when a car barrelled toward them. Some of the officers dove out of the way and one was struck in the leg. Two officers and a sergeant fired at the car. One person inside was injured. Chief Chuck Harmon made the officers do training and put a notice in the sergeant's file because they broke the rules about firing at a moving vehicle.

March 10 — Police shot and killed Arthur Dixon, 43, who lunged at them with scissors. That evening, Dixon's mother called police and said her son was suicidal. Officers surrounded the house at 5411 Fourth Ave. N and negotiated with Dixon, who eventually emerged "belligerent and threatening" with the scissors. Prosecutors and police cleared the officers of any crime.

April 15 — Two teens in a stolen car were shot and injured when they were fired upon by three officers. Two of the officers spotted the car after it backed into an alley behind 1831 26th St. S and tried to get the teens to surrender. Instead, the 19-year-old driver took off. Two officers fired. A third also fired when he saw the car go past him a short time later. Harmon fired the third officer, George Graves, who he said fired two shots from about 90 feet away. Harmon said Graves had no reason to shoot at a moving car. The case is being appealed.

April 28 — Officer Christopher Dolch fired three times at Pamela Dale Kirk, 53, after she pointed a gun at him through a window at her home, 2630 13th Ave. N, authorities said. Dolch was one of three officers who responded to a welfare check at the home after one of Kirk's neighbors reported she was acting strangely. She had a history of mental illness. Dolch was cleared of wrongdoing.

July 16 — Two officers shot and killed Carlos Crompton, 39. Police were searching for Crompton after he shot his girlfriend. He drove to a relative's home in the 4200 block of 14th Avenue S, then fired at officers who arrived. They returned fire. Prosecutors and police administrators both determined the officers were justified.

Sept. 2 — Three officers shot and killed Ronald Sexton, 23. A neighbor told police that Sexton had pulled a gun and was beating on his door. When officers arrived at Sexton's home, 4412 10th Ave. N, he pulled a gun and pointed it at an officer, police said. The officers fired a combined 17 times. Prosecutors and police administrators both determined the officers were justified.

Sept. 7 — Six officers shot and killed Lelann Cooley, 46. Cooley had been suicidal and told his family he intended to make police shoot him to death. After neighbors called police to complain about noise at Cooley's home, 3311 40th St. N, he pointed a rifle at officers, who fired. All six officers were cleared by prosecutors, but police administrators punished two of them because they could not clearly see Cooley when they fired. The officers were given a formal discipline that stays in their permanent file. Union officials complained and the punishment was reduced, but Harmon tightened the policy to require officers to clearly see what they are shooting at.

Sept. 23 — An officer shot Kenneth Sprankle, 26, who police said was chasing people with an ax downtown. Prosecutors and police administrators determined the officer was justified.

Oct. 17 — Four officers shot and killed Jason Michael Kerr, 31, after employees of Hungry Baba's restaurant at 18th Avenue S and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street reported he was waving a gun in the parking lot. When officers confronted him, he shot at them at least three times, hitting two marked cruisers, police said. Police returned fire. Prosecutors and police administrators both determined the officers were justified.

Teen shot by St. Petersburg officer who was investigating report of stolen vehicles 12/23/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 24, 2013 12:29am]

© 2014 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...