HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A number of groups affiliated with Black Lives Matter held a press conference outside of the Tampa Police Department to ask law enforcement officials to present more evidence in the case of Jonas Joseph, a Tampa man who was killed in a April shootout with officers.
State Attorney Andrew Warren announced Thursday that his office declined to press charges against the five officers who opened fire, killing Joseph. Warren’s office said a total of nine officers were involved in the incident. Their names are being protected under Marsy’s Law.
Joseph, 28, was gunned down on April 28 after police tried to stop his car on East Palifox Street.
None of the officers were wearing body cameras when the incident occurred, and none of their vehicles were equipped with dashboard cameras. Out of the 1,000 police officers at the agency, only 60 have been outfitted with body cameras, and only 93 out of 1,200 of their police vehicles have dashboard cameras, according to Warren’s report.
Police said one officer was wearing a body camera, but he arrived at the scene after the threat ended. The body camera video shows him enter the area with his police-issued rifle, Warren’s office said.
Police said they had tried to stop Joseph’s car because it was connected to a shooting that wounded a woman in the Grant Park neighborhood of Tampa.
Before he was killed, police said Joseph pulled into the driveway of a home, put his Chevy Impala in reverse and hit one of their vehicles. He allegedly tried to flee the scene and crashed his car into a tree. Then he began shooting at officers, police said.
The officers returned fire, hitting and killing Joseph. Police said a second gun was found inside of his car.
According to the State’s Attorney’s Office, the Medical Examiner had determined the officers fired a total of 125 rounds, seven of which hit Joseph.
The five officers involved in the shooting were placed on administrative leave, which is standard agency protocol for officer-involved shootings.
According to the report, eight officers saw Joseph point a handgun toward them and either heard or saw at least one gunshot or muzzle flash before they opened fire.
“These facts support a reasonable belief by the officers that they were in fear of imminent death or great bodily harm when they used deadly force,” the report states. “Under Florida law, this means the use of deadly force is justified, and there is no legal basis for criminal charges against any of the officers.”
Members of Black Lives Matter: Tampa, Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk Inc, and Sis, Se Puede stood outside of the Tampa Police Department Thursday and demanded the agency present more evidence.
“Interestingly, no shell casings were found at the scene that would prove categorically Mr. Josephs fired his gun. Coincidentally, the drive-by shooting that he was said to have been a part of a week earlier, they were able to find forensic evidence that matches the gun, and say, without a doubt, that Mr. Josephs was involved in a drive-by shooting, and yet were unable to find anything that said he fired his gun on the night of April 28,” one speaker said. “No dashcam video exists from that night.”
“We’re unable to make a determination about what happened to Mr. Josephs in the absence of clear evidence,” she added.
The State’s Attorney’s Office said it worked with Tampa Police and family representatives to “ensure that we had all relevant evidence prior to completing our review.”
“The last thing officers want to do is use deadly force. Regardless of the circumstances, we acknowledge the grief of the family and community. Since the shooting, our department has been fully cooperative with the independent investigation of the SAO. In this case, it is clear our officers were forced into responding to the threat of the imminent danger they faced,” said Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan.
The groups said they were calling on the FBI and other agencies to investigate the case.
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