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Family of teen shot, maimed by former rookie St. Petersburg cop sues city

TAMPA — Quade Everett was considered all but dead after a rookie police officer shot him in the head and shoulder in December in St. Petersburg.

But the teen — struck by bullets as he was driving a truck that police said was stolen — survived, though he was severely disabled.

Now Everett and his mother are suing Brian Fernandez and the city of St. Petersburg in federal court. A second officer, Brian Priest, also is named in the lawsuit, which was filed Monday.

The suit claims that the teenager's civil rights were violated and that the city and Police Department were lax in training officers about their use of force. The two officers left Everett to die, the lawsuit says, and did not immediately give medical assistance or call for help after the shooting, which occurred as the police tried to locate a stolen truck and iPad.

Fernandez, the suit suggests, should have waited for backup from a more experienced officer before confronting Everett, whom he suspected of stealing a car and other property crimes.

"He drew his weapon and discharged his firearm six times at an unarmed suspect that was simply trying to avoid police contact and posed no threat to him," the suit says.

Fernandez was fired from the department in May because of the shooting, and could not be reached for comment.

Then-interim Chief Dave DeKay determined the young officer broke department rules and was not justified in his use of force.

"His articulation of the incident didn't give me a lot of confidence in his decisions that day," DeKay told the Tampa Bay Times at the time.

Mother and son sat side by side Monday at their Tampa attorney's office.

Everett, who is now 18, suffers from seizures from his brain injury. His speech is slurred. But his mom said even those things are blessings after his unexpected recovery.

Months after being sent to a brain center, Everett was able to say, "Hi, Mama." He began to walk a couple of months ago and currently has a cane, though he can't go up stairs.

The family said they want police officers to get better training as it pertains to use of force.

"There is a rising number of African-American boys being shot by police," said Laquanda Everett, a minister and author. "It's becoming a national problem. This is not just St. Pete. … I tell him God is making him a message for parents that can't speak. We're that voice."

On Monday, Assistant City Attorney Joe Patner said the city will not comment on pending litigation.

Everett, who had been arrested before on burglary and auto theft charges, was shot just after sunrise on Dec. 23.

Fernandez had been sent to 20th Avenue S and 11th Street to find a stolen truck. People scattered as the officer walked up to a crowded house at 2011 11th St. S.

Everett, police said then, ran past Fernandez and got into a stolen silver Ford F-150 and began to drive off.

Fernandez said the truck came head-on at him and he had no escape path. Firing his weapon was his only recourse, he told investigators, because he feared for his life.

All of his shots landed along the truck's passenger side and back window.

Moments later, Priest arrived and helped Fernandez break out the driver's side window. As they opened the driver's door, the teen's body slumped over.

The officers did not render aid, believing Everett was dead.

"Despite being shot in the head and shoulder by Fernandez, Everett did not succumb to his wounds, despite the fact that the officers failed to provide assistance to him or promptly summon emergency help," the lawsuit says.

The claim also notes the unusually high number of police-involved shootings last year in St. Petersburg. Everett was the 10th person shot by an officer in 2013, a record for the department.

Witnesses told police they never saw Everett drive toward the officer. Most also denied hearing the officer make any commands until after he started shooting.

Laquanda Everett, 37, remembers arriving at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg that morning, prepared to say goodbye to her son, the second oldest of four children.

"They told me he was brain-dead. He actually was supposed to be a vegetable," she said. "But … he was fighting."

Contact Kameel Stanley at kstanley@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8643. Follow @cornandpotatoes.

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