Prosecutor: Tampa police justified in 2 separate shootings

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) —  Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren has ruled that three police officers were justified in shooting and wounding two men in Tampa.

The Hillsborough County State’s Attorney’s Office completed a review of the shooting of 28-year-old Jeremy De La Cruz-Liwag, who was shot and injured in January, and 44-year-old Renardo Bucklon Butler, who was injured on Christmas Day.

The review said Butler had barricaded himself inside a room at Rodeway Inn, 2904 Melbourne Boulevard after “forcibly ejecting” the room’s occupant.”

According to the review, police spent several hours trying to get Butler out of the room. He told them he was under the influence, heavily armed and planned to injure anyone who entered. Officers thought he may have killed himself after hearing the sound of gunfire. When they tried to go into the room to check on him, Butler fired multiple shots through the door and window, forcing them to retreat.

The officers did not return fire.

Police deployed robots, flash bangs and chemical agents to coax Butler out of the room, but that did not work. Around 1 a.m., members of a SWAT unit broke out a window to look into the room.

“Butler shot at TPD officers outside the motel room in multiple waves of gunfire,” the review said. “Members of the TPD SWAT unit resorted to the use of deadly force only after another wave of gunfire as they attempted to approach the room.”

Butler suffered multiple gunshot wounds, but survived his injuries. None of the officers were hurt, but a bullet got lodged in one of their protective shields.

The review said body camera video of the incident was consistent with the officers’ descriptions of events.

“After our thorough analysis, we have determined that the facts and evidence of this incident prove that the law enforcement officers reasonably believed they were in fear of imminent death or great bodily harm when they used deadly force. They also did not have a duty to retreat,” the review said.

The other incident with Jeremy De La Cruz-Liwag occurred on Jan. 21.

Police were called to the Bowery Bayside apartment complex for reports of an armed man who was banging on doors.

Five officers went to De La Cruz-Liwag’s apartment to investigate, and stood single-file outside his front door. Before they could knock, De La Cruz-Liwag opened the door. An officer tried to engage him in conversation and noticed he had one hand behind his back. When asked to leave the apartment and show his hands, De La Cruz-Liwag refused.

Police said De La Cruz-Liwag backed up into his apartment and raised his firearm in the officer’s direction. The officer opened fire, hitting him three times. He suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

The state’s attorney’s office has reviewed body camera video of the incident and found it to be consistent with the officers’ statements and other evidence.

“We have determined that the facts and evidence of this incident prove that the law enforcement officer reasonably believed he was in fear of imminent death or great bodily harm when he used deadly force. He also did not have a duty to retreat,” the review said.

The names of the three officers are being protected due to Marsy’s Law.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

April 24 2021 08:00 am

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