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Tarpon Springs cops who shot, killed teen shielded by Marsy’s Law

The two officers and five others who were at the scene but didn’t fire their guns invoked their right to stay anonymous.
Tarpon Springs Police Chief Jeffrey Young identified Alexander King, 17, as the person who was shot by police officers Oct. 16 after pointing a rifle at responding officers.
Tarpon Springs Police Chief Jeffrey Young identified Alexander King, 17, as the person who was shot by police officers Oct. 16 after pointing a rifle at responding officers. [ CHRIS URSO | Times ]
Published Oct. 22
Updated Oct. 22

TARPON SPRINGS — The identities of two police officers who shot and killed a 17-year-old boy over the weekend are being withheld under a law intended to protect crime victims.

The officers, as well as five others who were at the scene but didn’t fire their guns, invoked their right to remain anonymous under Marsy’s Law, an amendment to the state constitution, Tarpon Springs police Maj. Frank Ruggiero said Friday.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating the shooting, which killed Alexander King, an 11th-grader at Tarpon Springs High School. Police encountered King on Saturday night after receiving reports that he was pointing an AK-style rifle at passing cars on N Pinellas Avenue, according to the police department.

When officers arrived at N Pinellas Avenue and Tarpon Avenue, King pointed the weapon, which turned out to be a pellet gun, at them and several passing vehicles. After they took cover behind cars, two officers fired 12 rounds at King. He was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.

Related: Tarpon Springs teen shot, killed by police officers identified

Marsy’s Law was approved by Florida voters in 2018 with the intent to protect the identity of crime victims, among other rights.

Some law enforcement agencies began using it to withhold names of officers who used force on the job, saying the events leading up to the force, such as someone pointing a gun, made the officer a crime victim. Proponents of the interpretation said that police officers should be treated like any other victim. But critics, including some law enforcement leaders, said it erodes transparency and trust in the police.

In April, a Florida appellate court ruled on the issue. It found that nothing in the amendment “excludes law enforcement officers or other government employees from the protections granted crime victims.”

Related: Florida turns the other way as demand rises for police transparency