TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The attorney for the Tampa Police Officer who owns the gun used in the shooting death of 15-year-old Bradley Hulett is pushing back against comments from the Hillsborough County’s Sheriff.
8 On Your Side has not identified Officer Edwin Perez until sitting down with his attorney Wednesday for an interview in response to Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister saying that the officer’s failure to properly secure his gun contributed to Hulett’s death.
“We all want to better the law, we all want to make it safer for everyone, but in doing so we don’t ruin the reputation of a police officer,” Perez’s Attorney Rick Escobar said.
Officer Perez’s attorney says his client has received many accolades during his 28-year career as a law enforcement officer.
“He is an outstanding police officer for this community,” Escobar said.
State Attorney Andrew Warren announced last Friday that Perez would not be charged for violating the state’s safe storage law.
“Just because he can’t be criminally pursued doesn’t mean that individual doesn’t bear any responsibility on the tragic death that happened that evening,” Sheriff Chronister said.
Chronister said law enforcement officers should be held to a higher standard when it comes to safely storing firearms.
“I believe that the gun owner who failed to properly store his firearm that evening is even more responsible than an inquisitive teenager,” Chronister told 8 On Your Side Tuesday.
According to the arrest report for Christopher Bevan, the 15-year-old charged with manslaughter with a firearm, the officer’s gun had been returned to the master bedroom by the time deputies arrived.
The report said deputies located the 9mm semiautomatic handgun in the holster on a small cabinet and one shell casing in the room where Hulett was shot in the back of the head.
“When he left that house that morning and locked that bedroom door Edwin Perez believed that that particular firearm was fully, fully unloaded,” Escobar said.
Escobar told 8 On Your Side it was an “innocent mistake” that he left one round in the chamber. He said he has a daily routine of removing the magazine from the gun before locking his bedroom.
“This is an individual that by anybody’s stretch of the imagination went way beyond the call of the safe storage act,” Escobar said.
The State Attorney revealed Perez’s son unlocked the door using a paperclip when he went to use the bathroom in the bedroom.
Sheriff Chronister told 8 On Your Side he plans to meet with lawmakers in Tallahassee on Thursday as he advocates for changes to the state’s safe storage law.
“This is about a 15-year-old who had so much life to live that had his life taken from him,” Chronister said.
Tampa police are conducting an internal affairs investigation to determine if Officer Perez violated department policies. Escobar said he does not think his client will face any discipline.