Monday, July 7, 2014

Mitch Perry Report 7.7.14: Fatal shooting by TPD SWAT team of Seminole Heights man deserves further scrutiny

Posted By on Mon, Jul 7, 2014 at 8:50 AM

click to enlarge The headline on WFTS-Channel 28 on the night of Westcott's death
  • The headline on WFTS-Channel 28 on the night of Westcott's death
Good morning, everyone, and welcome back to the working week. 

In St. Petersburg, Mayor Rick Kriseman will return from a midsummer vacation later this week and is expected shortly thereafter to name a new police chief. Meanwhile in Tampa, some folks are asking questions about their police department following Tampa Bay Times reporter Peter Jamison's disturbing report about what happened to Jason Westcott, who was killed by a SWAT team from the Tampa Police Department who busted in on his Seminole Heights home executing a search warrant for marijuana back in May — after which they found all of 0.2 grams, or $2 worth of weed, in that home. 

If you haven't read the story, it's worth your time. And it's worth asking a lot of questions about the whole operation, beginning with the reliability of the department taking its cues from an informant who, according to Jamison's account, purchased less than $200 of pot during repeated visits to Westcott's house over four months
This is not the first time the TPD has been under question over the past year. There's the well-known fallout with the DUI department, as well as a federal investigation regarding former detective Eric Houston.

The Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office has cleared the two officers involved in the Westcott shooting. Police Chief Jane Castor stands by her officers, saying essentially that because Westcott pointed a gun at the SWAT officers who busted into his place during the middle of the night, he was fair game. However, the story says Westcott had been in fear for his safety at his home and had alerted the police about the fact that he had a weapon. Again, why a SWAT team raid?

And what about the judge who approved the search warrant in the first place? As we say, lots of questions here that deserve higher scrutiny. But if nobody says anything, it will fade away.

In other news, the Council on American-Islamic Relations is hosting a news conference this afternoon to give an update on the situation involving 15-year-old Tampa resident Tariq Khdeir, whose beating at the hands of Israeli police last week has made international news.

Last week the 50th anniversary of LBJ signing the Civil Rights Act was celebrated in Tampa, and if you didn't see it, read CL contributor Zebrina Edgerton-Maloy's piece on that event. And if you missed it, read here what Lou Minardi, the head of Yellow Cab Tampa, has to say about Uber and Lyft operating in Tampa

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