ST. PETERSBURG — Two families want to know why police officers shot at a pair of teenagers who were trying to flee in a stolen car earlier this week.
So does the St. Petersburg Police Department.
The women who raised Shaquille Francios Sweat, 19, and Tyeisha Uneek Long, 15, said they understand police wanted to catch the teens, who were in a stolen car Monday afternoon then drove off when police walked up, striking one of the officers.
"I still feel like they shouldn't have shot at the car," said Pauline McCray, 59, a relative of Long's who called herself a "second mom" to the girl. "They could have died."
Police spokesman Mike Puetz said the officers weren't shooting at the car because it was stolen — but because it was being used as a weapon against the officers.
Yet under the department's use of force policy, officers "shall not fire at a moving vehicle or any occupant of a moving vehicle." There is an exception if somebody in the car has a firearm and all other "reasonable means to avoid the danger" have failed.
"The matter is being reviewed by internal affairs," Puetz said.
Both teens were treated at Bayfront Medical Center for gunshot wounds. Sweat, whom police said drove the Nissan Altima at officers, was booked into the Pinellas County Jail on charges of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, possession of crack cocaine, driving without a license and violating probation for grand theft. Long was taken to the Pinellas juvenile detention facility on charges of possessing crack cocaine.
The teens were spotted shortly after 3 p.m. inside the rented white 2014 Nissan, which was stolen a week ago from Gulfport.
As officers got closer, police said, Sweat accelerated toward Officers Richard Bishop, 30, and Brandon Bill, 31. Both officers drew their guns and fired into the car as it came toward them. Bill was struck slightly, but did not suffer a significant injury.
Kameel Stanley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8