BRADENTON — State and local law enforcement officials have ruled a Bradenton police officer used appropriate force in shooting a man with a Taser stun gun after he fled a traffic stop.
The 38-year-old man, Derrick Humbert, died an hour later at a local hospital.
Gov. Charlie Crist, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and, in an internal investigation, Bradenton police officials each ruled that Officer Del Shiflett was justified in shooting Humbert with a Taser.
Police say Humbert fled from officers Sept. 28 after they tried to stop him for not having a light on his bicycle, in the 700 block of 27th Street East. Humbert was shot in the back with a Taser as he ran. He was later found to have an outstanding marijuana warrant.
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A medical examiner has ruled Humbert, who had a significant amount of cocaine in his system, coupled with heart disease, died from a heart attack stemming from the exertion of the chase. Medical Examiner Dr. Russell Vega said the Taser did not play a role in Humbert’s death.
Crist’s office began investigating Humbert’s death at the request of a national civil rights group, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which has claimed Humbert was the victim of excessive force. The governor’s office asked FDLE to investigate the Humbert case, and the agency responded that Shiflett acted appropriately, according to a letter from the governor’s office to SCLC Florida Chairman Art Rocker.
Also in the letter, Crist’s office said the Bradenton Police Department has “added further restrictions to its Taser policies in reaction to Derrick Humbert’s death.”
Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski said the changes to the department’s Taser policy were actually enacted based on a manufacturer’s recommendation that law enforcement aim lower at subjects to avoid injuries to the neck and face.
“We apologize if any information we put out is misleading,” said governor’s office spokesman Sterling Ivey. “The bottom line is we don’t believe the Taser was used inappropriately, which concludes our investigation.”
Radzilowski said his agency’s internal investigation has also been concluded, but it has been turned over to the Manatee County State Attorney’s Office for its review.
Meanwhile, SCLC members in Florida continue to question the department’s tactics of stopping citizens for minor traffic offenses such as lack of bicycle lights, or walking on the wrong side of the road, saying the department is violating the “civil rights of the poor,” according to an SCLC statement released Tuesday.
“To walk a public street in fear of being stopped (accosted) by police for normal day-to-day activities is tantamount to Gestapoism and Talibanism in America,” Rocker wrote.
Radzilowski said he is outraged by the statement.
“I find you lack integrity and honesty in putting out such a knowingly false press release,” the chief wrote in a statement to Rocker. “Enforcing state law is not a violation of civil rights.”