Last week’s grand jury decision not to return charges against a former Pensacola police officer in the shooting death of Tymar Crawford has begun the next chapter in the case.
“I’d just like to thank the family of Tymar Crawford and the entire community for their patience as they’ve waited for this investigation to be completed,” said Mayor Grover Robinson. “We understand it’s been a difficult process for everyone, and we are hopeful that we can continue to come together as a community and move our community forward.”
Speaking at his weekly news conference, Robinson reiterated his support for the police department, including its decision to terminate Detective Daniel Siemen – the lone officer to fire shots at Crawford during the July 5 altercation.
“This incident is not reflective of the police department, and PPD’s values, training and policies,” said the Mayor. “By terminating the police officer, PPD did everything within their authority to make it clear that this incident does not reflect the values of the Pensacola Police Department.”
The grand jury on Friday returned a “no true bill” – declining to charge Siemen in the shooting. State Attorney Bill Eddins said the evidence presented did not rise to the level of criminal activity. The panel also made recommendations for the Pensacola PD, the first of which deals with training.
“[Chief Tommi Lyter} and his staff have not had a chance to look over all of them yet,” said Officer Mike Wood, PPD’s public information officer. “But I can tell you that if there is a recommendation there that Chief Lyter and the police department believe we can use, we will certainly do that. The training that our officers have is very good; it was just accredited. I don’t believe training was an issue in this incident.”
There are officers, says Wood, that have to go “hands on” with people on literally a daily basis.
“They have their guns out of their holsters; they have tasers, they have to go hands-on during fights several times -- one of those three,” said Wood. “So if you take those numbers and you look at how many times there’s been a discharge of a weapon, it shows that our training is good.
“What we have here was a good officer that made a bad split-second decision and nothing more.”
After the grand jury’s work was complete, the body and dash cam footage was released to the public. Mayor Robinson has viewed it.
“Again, after seeing the video I think [the] Pensacola Police Department did everything – and the right thing – in the termination of the officer involved,” said Robinson.
In addition to sympathizing with the Crawford family, police spokesman Mike Wood added that no officer ever wants to go through what Siemens is going through now.
“None of us ever want to discharge our weapons,” said Wood. “Most of us, fortunately, go through our careers without ever having to do that one time. The officers – they feel for detective Siemen – we do too. But you have to understand that we have policies and procedures, and therefore a reason, as an improper use of deadly force is very serious and it had to be dealt with.”
Daniel Siemen is appealing his termination, following the police union’s process in its collective bargaining agreement with the city.
“The grievance will be heard and then it will be decided whether he gets his job back,” said Wood. “It ultimately will be up to the chief or possibly the city – I’m not exactly sure how that works at that level.”
Another recommendation is the reconstitution of a citizen’s advisory committee to work with police on numerous issues. Robinson confirmed that’s in the works, but no time table has been worked out.
“This event does strain relationships; but we have every commitment to work through our neighborhood association and working with the police, [and] as far as other city services to establish better relationships – we understand that,” said Robinson. “We’re going to be here, focused on how we can improve it.”
Meanwhile, the family of Tymar Crawford is said to be preparing to file a lawsuit against the city, retaining attorney Joe Zarzaur.
“Tymar Crawford’s family is represented by attorneys, and they’ll have to decide whether or not they’re going to bring any particular lawsuit against the city,” said city attorney Susan Wolff.
“Right now, the only lawsuit that’s pending against the city concerns the public records request for the video that has been released to Mr. Zarzaur at this time,” Wolff said. “We are communicating with him as to whether or not he’s going to go ahead and dismiss that lawsuit as being moot at this point.”
In a news conference last week, Zarzaur said if criminal justice won’t be done, perhaps civil justice will prevail.