LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – State investigators are looking into the actions of four members of the Lakeland Police Department in a case that highlights some tension between Black people and police who are supposed to serve them.
“I feared for my life. I feared for my daughter’s life, everybody’s life,” said Antwan Glover, of Lakeland.
In December, Glover was stopped by Lakeland police for not wearing a seatbelt. Officers smelled marijuana, though Glover said he had a medical marijuana card on him. Cell phone video shows Glover ended up on the ground, where he was repeatedly punched and stun-gunned by police.
Officers claim he was resisting.
“After all of that, I sat in the back of the police car and I cried,” said Glover. “I cried. I just thanked God that they didn’t kill me that night.”
According to a statement from Chief Sam Taylor, Sergeant Mark Eby, Detective Dillon Cornn, and Officers Anton Jefferson and Jason McCain are on paid administrative leave as the Florida Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) conducts a use-of-force investigation.
“I appreciate the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s willingness to take on this investigation. I am confident in their abilities to review the facts fairly, and the Lakeland Police Department will fully cooperate with any requests made by FDLE,” wrote Chief Sam Taylor in a statement.
Glover was arrested but unlike Tyre Nichols, he survived.
The 29-year old Nichols was beaten to death by Memphis police officers in early January. Police had initially accused him of reckless driving, though there is no evidence of that.
His name is the latest in a list of unarmed Black men killed or injured by police, dating back to the 90’s and Rodney King.
“That really brought to the forefront a viciousness because it must have been eight officers around him,” said Terry Coney, president of the NAACP Lakeland chapter.
He says these incidents have an impact on the local level, no matter where they happen.
“You don’t have to have things happening in Lakeland to have that distrust of the police because you have 24 hour news cycle, everyone has a camera,” said Coney. “I don’t care whether you’re Black, white, purple, green or polka dot, that’s gonna have an impact on you.”
Coney says when his son went to college out of state, he talked to him about always complying with police.
“If he asks for your drivers license – give him whatever he asks for. If he’s gonna write you a ticket, he’ll write you a ticket and you can go on about your business,” said Coney.
To make change, Coney supports community policing and more direct interaction between officer and the people they serve. He said while growing up in Lakeland, he had a positive relationship with police, with a Black officer often spending time with the kids in the neighborhood.
“Instead of policing and law enforcement, let’s pursue it from a public safety standpoint,” said Coney. “The more visibility you can get in the neighborhood, where you feel like this is our police officer.”
Lakeland police are in the process of distributing body cameras for hundreds of officers.