RiseMagazine | Sarasota

The Premier Lifestyle Magazine of Florida's Black Communities

Digging for the Truth

Sarasota County Deputies Shoot and Kill an Unarmed Driver

This should have been the headline that ran with the article published by the Sarasota Herald Tribune regarding the shooting death of a Bradenton man Monday night. Of course, it wasn’t!
According to the story published by the SHT, officers pulled 23-year-old Rodney G. Mitchell for a traffic violation on Washington Court. Mitchell was due to appear in court on a charge of driving on a suspended license. Other than that he had few, if any, run-ins with the law. On this night, however, he chose to act aggressively towards the officers and attempt to run them over, resisting…arrest? It was a traffic stop.

In response to this act of aggression towards them, the officers fired into the vehicle, hitting Mitchell. There was an unidentified passenger who managed to get away and has yet to be captured. But there are questions…

  • Why would Mitchell attempt to run-down either of the two officers that had stopped him?
  • Typically, a cruiser is located behind the vehicle in question, which would mean the officers would be approaching the vehicle from the rear…so was Mitchell trying to run them down in reverse?
  • What happened to the passenger?
  • Why would they shoot into the vehicle instead of attempting to disable it?
  • Wasn’t Mitchell’s reaction excessive considering that he was typically a good man with a promising future?

According to feedback from eye-witnesses that I’ve spoken with, a more sensible reality exists.

Mitchell was stopped by SCS Deputy Adam Shaw at approximately 9:30pm that Monday night. Shaw was backed up on the call by SCS Sgt. Troy Sasse. Mitchell was accompanied by an unidentified man. The, as yet, unknown passenger was carrying a weapon and began shooting in the air. As the officers took cover, the passenger fled. The only possible target left was Mitchell and once the officers were able to return fire, they shot and fatally wounded Mitchell. According to witnesses, there happened to be a nurse on the scene who attempted to offer life-saving support to Mitchell. She was told to leave him and, upon her insistance to help Mitchell, was arrested for obstruction.

Why would they NOT allow medical aid to be administered to the victim? Is it possible that he would have said something that would have shed light on their actions? In a case of “my word vs yours” if you’re dead, I win! The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) provides a model use-of-force policy that states that officers should not shoot into a vehicle unless the occupants of that vehicle are presenting a threat to the officers by means other than the vehicle. Their guidelines suggest that threatened officers take measures to avoid the vehicle instead of discharging a firearm at the vehicle or its occupants.

The use-of-force policy in place with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, General Order 1.4, addresses this issue but does not restrict the use of firearms.

To further complicate the matter, the SHT had no problem with providing street references that are no longer in use. Mitchell’s Jeep rolled to a stop at the Sunoco gas station located at the corner of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Way (no longer referred to as 27th Street) and 301 aka Washington Blvd. Even SNN Channel 6 is describing the location as 301 and 28th Street!

Shouldn’t the residents of Sarasota have clear, easy access to what’s happening here? Or are we attempting to shift the focus here to avoid the obvious… Mr. Mitchell did not need to die!

Considering the investment in camera systems within the community, is there any footage to support the officers’ account? No dash-cam footage? No security camera footage from the Sunoco gas station? The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office should make every effort in polishing its already well-tarnished image and yet, we seem to continue making a bad thing worse.

The Newtown community is being used as an extended training ground for police academy graduates. This area is not so drug- and crime-ridden that it is beyond control…no worse than Gillespie Park was three years ago. Vice Mayor Shaw saw fit to assemble a group to study the High Point, North Carolina deterrence model but, maybe he just needed to spend more time in Gillespie Park.

This leads to a big issue of presenting the truth for what it is. We shouldn’t have to dig for the truth…unless it’s being buried. There will be more to this story as the truth is un-covered…


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This entry was posted on 06/13/2012 by in Local Interest, Sidebar and tagged , , , , , .


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