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Trooper cleared in May shooting of Alabama man

Published Sep. 3, 2005

A Leon County grand jury has cleared a Florida Highway Patrol trooper in the death of an unarmed Alabama man she shot four times on Interstate 10.

The report issued Tuesday said Trooper Kreshawn Walker-Vergenz should not be charged in the death of Genie McMeans Jr. of Alpine, Ala.

Walker-Vergenz probably will return to patrol duty, an FHP spokesman said. She had been assigned to administrative tasks since the May 9 shooting.

Attorney Ben Crump, representing the McMeans family, called the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation "a cover for the state."

He said he will ask the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the shooting and said the McMeans family will file a wrongful-death suit.

The FDLE's report said McMeans, 23, was riding in his car, driven by Saul Ticona, a friend from the University of South Alabama. Ticona said McMeans had been acting strangely during what was supposed to be a three-week trip to Miami, and they were returning to Mobile after only a day.

Ticona said McMeans grabbed the steering wheel while they were traveling on I-10 and that when he saw an FHP car's flashing lights on the side of the road, he decided to stop for assistance. Walker-Vergenz, who had just written a speeding ticket, told investigators she saw the car skid to a stop on the road shoulder.

The FDLE report said Ticona told the trooper, "My friend is trying to kill us."

"McMeans exited the passenger side of the vehicle shouting "boom' and came at the trooper with his hands fully visible and empty-handed," the FDLE report said. "Trooper Walker-Vergenz was able to gain command of McMeans at gunpoint by ordering him to the ground beside the vehicle."

The report said McMeans stood up and again came toward Walker-Vergenz, who drew her gun and shouted for him to stop. Investigators said McMeans turned around and walked back to the car, leaning partly into it, and Walker-Vergenz shot him in the back.

Ticona and the trooper said McMeans sat in the car for several seconds, then stood up and walked toward Walker-Vergenz again and was shot in the chest and abdomen.

"When McMeans was shot the first time, Trooper Walker-Vergenz did not see any weapons of any kind, did not have concern for Ticona, the driver, and was not at that time being physically confronted by McMeans," the FDLE report said. "Trooper Walker-Vergenz stated she "thought' that McMeans was going for a weapon in the vehicle and . . . was in fear for her life."

Walker-Vergenz resigned from the Leon County Sheriff's Office in 1996 after two months in a training academy and was fired by the FHP in May of 2000 after failing a vehicle operation examination. She was allowed to rejoin the patrol last year.

_ Information from the Tallahassee Democrat was used in this report.