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St. Petersburg officer cleared in September shooting death of 18-year-old

ST. PETERSBURG — The 50-year-old officer and the 18-year-old tumbled into the dark, wrestling over the gun in the teen's pocket.

The teen, Jared Speakman, landed on his back. St. Petersburg Officer Ruben DeJesus landed on top. The officer lost hold of the gun. DeJesus feared that the teen still had the gun and was about to shoot him.

Then DeJesus pulled out his .40-caliber Glock pistol and fired four times, killing Speakman.

The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office cleared the officer in a report released Thursday, which included the above account of the Sept. 26 incident.

"Officer DeJesus had every reason to be justifiably in fear for his own life as well as the lives of his fellow officers," read the report.

When DeJesus shined his flashlight on Speakman right after the shooting, according to the report, he saw that the gun had not been pulled out.

But Speakman was still holding the .22-caliber revolver, the report said. He had pulled it out enough to expose the cylinder. The gun was unloaded, the report said. Six spent .22-caliber shell casings were found in a pocket.

"It's a very tragic situation," said Chief Assistant State Attorney Bruce Bartlett. "But why is an 18-year-old kid running around at 2 a.m. with a gun?"

DeJesus and other officers were investigating an empty vehicle near the boat ramp at Jungle Prada Park at 1695 Park St. N. The park was closed. It was 1:40 a.m. Officers believed they saw marijuana in the car.

They found two underage males, Speakman and 20-year-old Andrew Stewart, sitting on a bench with an open beer.

It was dark, so officers used their flashlights. Stewart submitted to a patdown for weapons, the report said.

But Speakman, holding a small dog, refused. When he handed his dog to Stewart, the report said, DeJesus saw the revolver grip sticking out of the teen's right pants pocket.

According to the report, here's what happened next: DeJesus yelled to warn his fellow officers, then "lunged" for the gun. Speakman grabbed the weapon and DeJesus' hand and stood up. They wrestled over the gun, then fell down an embankment, rolling away from the officers' flashlights.

In the dark, the officer shot the teen in the chest, abdomen, torso and right thigh. Speakman was pronounced dead at 2:03 a.m.

Speakman had been drinking, according to the medical examiner, and had a blood-alcohol level of 0.071.

His gun had not been reported stolen, but its origins are unclear. It was given to Speakman by an unidentified man who couldn't tell police where he got it.

The teen's mother and stepfather told police they saw him with the gun days before. He did not have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. Speakman had no criminal record, according to state records.

After the shooting, Speakman's family they said they were outraged by his death. He died 16 days after he turned 18. He was caring for his disabled mother and planned to get his GED. The family has retained an attorney, but didn't want to talk Thursday.

"At this time the family has no comment," said the teen's aunt, Pattie McCartney. "We still have a lot of unanswered questions."

DeJesus has been on paid leave since the shooting and is awaiting the completion of an internal investigation. He is a 25-year veteran who is on the SWAT team. He was decorated for his actions in the Jan. 24 gun battle that killed two fellow officers.

The city has lost three officers to gunfire this year, the first police casualties in 30 years. Have their deaths affected the way officers do their jobs, or how they choose to defend themselves?

"Obviously it's in the back of the minds of the officers," said police Chief Chuck Harmon. "But you still expect them to go out and be professionals. I don't think this has made any difference in their response or attitude toward any community members."

Staff writers Curtis Krueger and Luis Perez contributed to this report.

St. Petersburg officer cleared in September shooting death of 18-year-old 10/13/11 [Last modified: Thursday, October 13, 2011 11:54pm]
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