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FAMILY SUES IN SHOOTING DEATH

The suit says a deputy used excessive force in shooting an unarmed 19-year-old in 2005.
Published Jul. 9, 2007

The family of an unarmed man killed by a deputy during a drug investigation has sued the deputy and Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats.

Jarrell S. Walker, 19, was shot inside his home two years ago by Deputy Christopher Taylor in an incident that brought some criticism to the sheriff's office, particularly from the African-American community.

Taylor had gone to the house at 3143 16th Ave. S on April 12, 2005, with other deputies to serve a warrant.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Tampa, names Walker's mother, Landria Adams, as the main plaintiff.

Also named as a member of Walker's estate is his son, Kamau Adams-Walker, who was 3 years old when his father was killed.

In the suit, attorney Matthew Farmer says that Taylor used unreasonable and excessive force against Walker and committed wrongful death.

The suit says that Walker's rights to due process and protection from unreasonable searches and seizures were violated.

The suit asks for unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees and other relief the court may find appropriate.

The Sheriff's Office does not discuss pending litigation, spokeswoman Cecilia Barreda said Friday.

A SWAT team served the warrant at Walker's home after an undercover deputy said he bought drugs that came from that house, the suit states.

Three men - Terrell Coley, Dorian Williams and Monteil Collier - were asleep in the garage. Walker was asleep on the couch in the living room while his son slept in a back room.

Deputy Taylor came in the house and ordered Walker to drop to the floor, the suit says. Walker complied by lying on his chest.

Taylor never ordered Walker to move away from the couch, the suit states. Instead, Taylor struck Walker with his boot at least once.

"Claiming later that Mr. Walker appeared as if he was retrieving a firearm from under the same couch on which he was asleep moments before, Taylor fired his Glock twice into Mr. Walker's back from no more than 2-3 feet away," the suit claims.

Deputies said they found drugs and guns in the home.

The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office ruled the shooting a justifiable homicide.

It determined that Walker was reaching for something under the couch and refused repeated orders to show his hand. A loaded handgun was found nearby.

But State Attorney Bernie McCabe lamented that another "relatively young black male ... met his death at the hands of law enforcement in Pinellas County."

Coats reviewed his office's policies to make it more clear when deadly force should be used.

Late last year, the Justice Department determined that Taylor did not violate Walker's civil rights.