Florida Keys News
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
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Oversight board clears two police officers of charges

The volunteer oversight board that investigates complaints against Key West police officers has exonerated two after finding the allegations of racial profiling and harassment to be unfounded.

Everette Fitzgerald Wilson, 48, claims Officer Brian Leahy abused his authority by firing a Taser at Wilson's back while chasing him on Petronia Street on Feb. 18, according to his complaint filed with the Citizen Review Board (CRB).

The CRB found that Wilson's claims of racial profiling, abuse of authority, manipulation and improper use of a Taser, were unfounded claims, said CRB Executive Director Sue Srch.

Wilson claimed that because Leahy allegedly exited a patrol car with Taser in hand when he was not acting in a threatening manner, the officer set out to shock Wilson, according to his five-page, handwritten complaint from Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island.

Wilson labeled Leahy a "modern day oppressor" who thinks "all people of color are drug dealers" and arrests more black people than white people, according to his complaint.

Chief Donie Lee investigated Wilson's claim and found that since Leahy's hire, he has arrested 39 white people and 11 black people and that there was "no evidence to support Mr. Wilson's claim of racial profiling ... [or] to support misconduct or inappropriate use of a Taser by Officer Leahy," according to an email Lee sent Srch.

The CRB agreed, Srch said.

"As far as abuse of authority, the board found that Wilson had a warrant and therefore the officer had the authority to arrest him; the use of the Taser fell within the department's policy as they were trying to keep him from running away; and as far as the manipulation allegation, the board didn't fully understand what he meant so all the charges were unfounded," Srch said.

Leahy was on patrol at noon in the 400 block of Petronia Street when he saw Wilson talking to two people in a green Chevrolet Tahoe parked in the middle of the street, according to the incident report the officer filed.

He then saw Wilson's arms inside the driver's side window and suspected a drug deal, the report states.

Leahy wrote in the report that he had investigated "numerous narcotic-related incidents" previously at the same location and knew that Wilson had a warrant out alleging felony theft.

The officer then exited his "patrol vehicle with Taser drawn and approached Wilson from behind."

Wilson turned, saw Leahy and started to run up the stairs of a nearby apartment at 733 Whitehead St. when Leahy shot the Taser, the report states. One prong hit Wilson, but the other prong hit the wall, which rendered it ineffective.

Wilson then ran into the second-floor apartment and barricaded himself inside for a while before coming out and being arrested, according to the report. Wilson had $830 in his hand when arrested, an amount that Leahy described as consistent with street-level drug sales, but which Wilson claimed was for a sewer bill, the report states.

Wilson wrote that he recalled seeing someone sneaking up beside him with what appeared to be a handgun before he fled, and that he was not a danger to himself or others when Leahy shot him with the Taser.

He was wanted on a felony warrant accusing him of stealing two TVs on April 18, 2011, from CVS pharmacy at 530 Truman Ave. He is still in jail under no bail on charges of resisting arrest without violence, failure to appear in court and felony theft, according to jail records.

Harassment complaint

A separate case involved Key West Housing Authority tenant Sheila Butler, who alleged in a complaint that Officer David Hall harassed her brother, Courtney Mitchell, on Sept. 16, according to records she filed with the CRB,

According to CRB documents, Hall gave Mitchell a warning. He allegedly was sitting on Butler's porch in Roosevelt Sands housing complex on Truman Avenue. Hall told Butler that she needed to escort Mitchell when he was on the property.

Mitchell did not commit a crime. The Police Department's Internal Affairs (IA) found that Hall was "performing his duties as a police officer and was following the direction of the Key West Housing Authority by making contact with a non-resident and possible trespasser," according to IA records.

The CRB found that Hall was doing his job.

"The board decided there was a miscommunication between the housing authority and the resident [Butler] and therefore found the allegation of harassment unfounded," Srch said.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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