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2 Clearwater police officers suspended after cop shot by friendly fire

The agency said the officers were in violation of the department’s policy for use and handling of weapons.
 
Two Clearwater police officers were suspended for two days after the agency's internal affairs found they violated the department's policy for use and handling of weapons.
Two Clearwater police officers were suspended for two days after the agency's internal affairs found they violated the department's policy for use and handling of weapons. [ Clearwater Police ]
Published April 5, 2023|Updated April 5, 2023

Two Clearwater police officers have been suspended for two days and removed from their specialty units after one cop shot the other during a call in January, according to internal affairs documents.

Officer Langston Woodie, 32, and Officer Jonathan Reid, 27, violated the department’s policy for use and handling of weapons. Woodie joined the agency in April 2016 and Reid was hired in April 2019.

About 7 p.m. on Jan. 1, Clearwater police, including Woodie and Reid, responded to reports of a man — 60-year-old James Wassman — firing gunshots in the backyard of his home on the 1100 block of Ridge Avenue.

Officers set up a perimeter around the home. Upon arrival, Woodie did not check in with supervisors, internal affair documents said, and positioned himself in a tree in the backyard of a home next door, swapping places with another officer. He did not tell dispatch or any of the supervisors where he was, according to internal affairs documents.

Reid jumped a fence and went into the backyard of the house on the other side of Wassman’s home. Another officer communicated his and Reid’s location over the radio, but Reid did not update supervisors on his location, according to internal affairs documents. The department’s Office of Professional Standards said that Reid violated orders when he went into the backyard of the home after a lieutenant had told officers to back up and take cover.

Wassman fired at officers, Clearwater police Chief Dan Slaughter said, and both Reid and Woodie returned fire.

Reid fired 18 rounds and Woodie fired six, according to internal affairs documents. Reid fired toward where he saw a “muzzle flash,” believing that direction to be Wassman’s location. However, he did not see Wassman, internal affairs documents say.

Woodie told internal affairs he saw a person in dark clothing holding a gun and believed he was firing at Wassman. However, one of Woodie’s bullets grazed Reid’s arm, and officers also found four “projectile materials” from Woodie’s rounds in a neighboring home.

Reid was taken to the hospital and treated for his injuries.

Slaughter said the officers’ use of force was justified, but he said Woodie and Reid didn’t follow agency protocols in their approach.

“When they use their weapons to defend themselves, it still needs to be consistent with our tactics, our training and our policy,” Slaughter said.

Wassman is facing charges of attempted second-degree murder on a law enforcement officer, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and discharging a firearm in public.

In a phone interview with the Tampa Bay Times, Reid said he was not surprised to have received the two-day suspension, but was frustrated at his removal from the K-9 unit, given that the chief ruled the officers’ use of force was justified.

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“I knew there was things that probably could’ve been done better that night, all around, from many different people on the team,” he said in a phone interview.

“The K-9 ... had no part in any of the incident,” Reid added. “I was just acting how I would whether I was in K-9 or on patrol.”

Attempts by the Times to reach Woodie by phone for comment were unsuccessful.

Slaughter said it’s customary for officers to be removed from their specialty units when they are suspended. Woodie was removed from the agency’s SWAT unit.