The shooting death of Bradenton resident Corey Mobley by a sheriff’s deputy Tuesday evening motivated a group of protesters to take action Friday night.
Community members gathered Friday evening in the parking lot of DeSoto Square mall, across the street from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, to protest the killing of Mobley.
During a news conference Wednesday, Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells said a deputy shot Mobley four times after the 38-year-old man told officers “I have a gun for you (expletive)” multiple times, according to deputies and at least three witnesses.
Detectives still have not found that alleged firearm.
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Organizers said Friday’s march and vigil were held to honor Mobley’s life and demand answers from law enforcement. After protesters gathered in the parking lot, they held signs into the air and marched across the street to the sheriff’s office complex.
Their signs read “Stop police terror” and “Community control of the police.” Local activist Deedra Zee led them in a “No justice, no peace” chant as the group headed toward the law enforcement headquarters. About six deputies stood at attention to monitor the event and ensure safety as they crossed the street.
Using a megaphone, Zee questioned the sheriff’s office and wondered how an unarmed man could be killed without any severe penalty for the deputy involved. Wells announced that the deputy, who has not been identified, has been placed on paid administrative leave while the shooting is being investigated.
But the investigation itself is what baffles some of the protesters. Manatee County NAACP President Rodney Jones said he’d like to see a few changes to how this sort of situation is handled by law enforcement agencies.
“Law enforcement should not be doing their own investigations. They just shouldn’t,” Jones said. “Some agencies immediately turn these things over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. I don’t know why our sheriff’s office continues to do their own investigations, especially given the relationship the agency has with the community here. There’s no transparency with that, and it doesn’t build trust.”
Jones said he would also like to see an independent community review board. He said the board ideally have the opportunity to review and investigate the evidence and information gathered by law enforcement.
“Police should never police the police. It’s just a bad equation,” said Jones.
Wells earlier this week told the Bradenton Herald that once his deputies complete their investigation, it will be reviewed by the State Attorney’s Office.
Manatee County Commissioner Charles Smith didn’t attend the protest but said body cameras for officers could go a long way to prevent “troubling” events like this one within the community.
“If we had (body cameras), it’d be a clear-cut situation,” said Smith. “Things like the possession of a gun would be clearly defined. That’s something we need to look into where there’s a video telling the story.”
Overall, relations with law enforcement have improved since Wells took over about a year ago, Smith said, but he acknowledged that it’s a “difficult situation” when a person is killed and a gun isn’t found.
“That sort of the thing damages the trust factor that they’ve been building up,” said Smith.
Protesters Friday made it clear that they didn’t trust law enforcement officers. As they stood outside the sheriff’s office headquarters, they took turns speaking with megaphones and voicing their opinions on Mobley’s death. Some directed their comments directly at deputies standing guard.
Ruth Beltran used her time to condemn the officers for propping up the nation’s system of oppression. She said “good cops” are still earning a paycheck from an arrangement that targets minorities.
“You’re the guardians of oppression in the United States. That will be your legacy,” she said into her megaphone.
But Alton Lilly Jr. didn’t need a megaphone to let the nearby deputies know how he felt. His passionate sermon lasted the longest of all protesters, as he darted from side to side, addressing deputies individually.
His point, he said, was that the story Wells told didn’t make any sense.
“From what I heard, you’ve got a man with a K-9 dog on him, but he’s still telling deputies that he’s got a gun,” Lilly said. “Then they shoot him twice, but he gets right back up with that same dog still on him? And he’s still walking toward the officers? What Wells said was shocking.”
Lilly said his biggest gripe is that officers use the excuse that they were threatened to justify the shooting of unarmed suspects. He’d like to see a law that clearly defines a threat or more training for officers to not fear for their lives when dealing with black men out in the field.
The march was organized by the Rodney Mitchell Foundation and Black Lives Matter Manasota.
When reached by phone early Friday, Wells said community members are entitled to their right to hold a peaceful protest.
According to the sheriff’s office, Mobley’s death stemmed from a report of abuse at a Marathon gas station at 2927 Cortez Road. A 911 caller reported a man beating a woman. Deputies later identified that man as Mobley and pursued him.
Mobley, a Sarasota native, allegedly drove off, heading south on U.S. 41 near Pearl Avenue. When deputies attempted to stop him, he took off running. According to the sheriff’s office, a K-9 found Mobley, and that’s when he allegedly told deputies he had a gun.
The deputy fired a total of four shots — two after Mobley put his hands in his waistband saying he had a gun and two more after Mobley again said he had a gun, Wells said. Mobley was taken to a hospital, where he died.
The investigation is ongoing.