ST. PETERSBURG — State Rep. Darryl Rouson said he wants the city to "do the right thing" and settle a federal lawsuit filed this week by the family of a teen shot and maimed by a rookie police officer last December.
Rouson said he called Mayor Rick Kriseman and police Chief Tony Holloway on Wednesday morning to tell them so.
"We must urge our agencies of government to admit wrong when it is clear and do the right thing," he wrote in a letter delivered to City Hall later in the afternoon. "This is an opportunity to make a difference, send a message and right a wrong timely."
Rouson, who is a lawyer but not part of the lawsuit, said he does not want the city to waste thousands of taxpayer dollars fighting the claim by Quade Everett, who was struck in the head and shoulder by an officer's bullets just before sunrise on Dec. 23.
At the time, Everett, who was 17, was behind the wheel of a stolen truck. The officer who shot him, Brian Fernandez, was on probationary status and had been patrolling solo for only a few months.
He was fired in May for the shooting.
An internal investigation found evidence and witness statements that contradicted Fernandez's account that Everett had sped toward him, prompting him to discharge his weapon. All of the officer's shots showed he was behind, and possibly to the side of, the truck when he was shooting.
Then-interim police Chief David DeKay determined Fernandez used excessive force and broke agency rules, including one against shooting at cars unless circumstances are extreme or a firearm is involved.
Immediately after the shooting, Fernandez and another officer approached the truck. They believed the unconscious teen to be dead.
Everett survived but now has severe disabilities related to his brain injury. He and his mother filed a civil claim in federal court on Monday in Tampa.
The city has said it would not respond to pending litigation.
Rouson said the case screams for justice. He said a string of incidents near and far, including the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson, Mo., compelled him to speak up about the Everett case.
Too often, Rouson said, governments hide behind sovereign immunity or are slow to issue compensation to victims in a timely matter. He also said he would seek legislation to reform the process.
Contact Kameel Stanley at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8643. Follow @cornandpotatoes.
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