The FBI has launched an investigation into the death of a teenager who was shot twice in the back by a Pinellas County sheriff's SWAT team member during a drug raid.
The agency wants to determine whether authorities violated the civil rights of Jarrell Walker, 19, who died April 12. Black community leaders have raised questions about the shooting, and eight police cars were damaged when a protest at a city park turned violent May 8.
"This is what we've been asking for, hoping for," Walker's mother, Wanda Walker, told the St. Petersburg Times. "We wanted an outside agency to look into this. I'm just shocked they did do it."
St. Petersburg NAACP president Darryl Rouson asked for a review of Walker's death in a May 11 letter to the FBI after Pinellas prosecutors concluded the shooting was legally justified. Deputy Chris Taylor, 33, who shot Walker, has been involved in two other shootings since joining the force in 1998.
Officer said he suspected gun
Taylor said he feared for his life and fired when he thought Walker was reaching for a gun under a couch after ignoring orders to show his hands. A search of the house after the shooting uncovered a pistol in a different place, cocaine and marijuana.
Walker's mother and others say Taylor was close enough to use physical restraint rather than his gun.
The FBI is seeking all of the sheriff's records on the shooting as well as St. Petersburg police records on a raid at Walker's house a month earlier.
"We are cooperating fully with this investigation," sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Jim Bordner said Tuesday.
Charges of inciting riot
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker said the city will cooperate with the probe. "If the FBI feels it is necessary to investigate, it's appropriate for them to do that," he said.
Two relatives of the victim have been charged with inciting a riot at the park after supporters handed out fliers about the shooting. Police cars were damaged by people throwing bricks, rocks and bottles. No injuries were reported.
The black community group Democratic Uhuru Movement has denounced the shooting, saying it was another example of law enforcement targeting black youths. The fatal shooting of a teenager by a St. Petersburg police officer in 1996 sparked two nights of riots.