DEADLY RAIN UNDER REVIEW
ST. PETERSBURG - The FBI has launched an investigation into the death of 19-year-old Jarrell Walker to determine if his civil rights were violated when he was shot by a Pinellas County sheriff's SWAT team member during a drug raid April 12.
Sara Oates, an agency spokeswoman, confirmed the investigation was under way but declined further comment.
The FBI's investigation is at least the third one into Walker's death, and it comes after many in the black community have raised concerns about the shooting.
Walker was black; the sheriff's corporal who killed him, Chris Taylor, is white.
Prosecutors conducted one probe, then said Taylor did nothing criminally wrong when he shot Walker twice in the back after Walker repeatedly groped under a couch. Taylor said he feared Walker was reaching for a weapon.
In the subsequent house search, deputies found a 9 mm pistol, 91 grams of marijuana, 7.5 grams of powder cocaine, 39.5 grams of crack cocaine and a police scanner, authorities say.
On Monday, the sheriff's Shooting Review Board conducted an investigation into the fatal raid at the Walker household, 3143 16th Ave. S.
The board ruled that although Taylor's actions complied with the sheriff's policies as written, the policies should be changed to reflect a higher threshold for the use of force, sheriff's spokeswoman Marianne Pasha said.
Sheriff Jim Coats has not decided whether to accept the board's ruling, but he has intimated he agrees with it. "Our policy is in question and probably needs to be revised, and perhaps our training also," Coats said after a meeting with black community activists he invited to attend the review.
Last week, the FBI sent a letter to Coats' chief deputy, Dennis Fowler, asking for any police, internal affairs or medical reports on the shooting, according to a copy of the letter.
A similar letter was sent to the St. Petersburg Police Department, asking for information concerning a raid at the Walker household that occurred a month earlier than the fatal raid. Special Agent Carl Whitehead asked for all reports, photographs, videos or audio recordings associated with the event.
The FBI also conducted an investigation into the death of TyRon Lewis to determine whether Lewis' civil rights were violated when he was shot by St.
Petersburg Officer James Knight in 1996, sparking two nights of rioting.
The U.S. Justice Department concluded there was no evidence supporting the contention Lewis' rights were violated.