With a grand jury set to investigate the July shooting of an African-American man by a Pensacola police officer, city leaders are watching from the sidelines — for now.
Twenty-eight-year-old Tymar Crawford was shot on July 5 during a struggle with two officers. Detective Daniel Siemen, the only officer to fire his weapon, was terminated last week by Chief Tommi Lyter. An internal investigation showed Siemen violated the department’s guidelines for lethal force. At his weekly news conference, Mayor Grover Robinson said they are in “wait and see” mode — and encourages everyone else to do the same.
“I support the police department; I support Chief Lyter in his decision to terminate the officer in this case,” the mayor said. “But I do ask for your continued patience, and continue to await the findings of the grand jury. I’m hopeful that we can continue to come together and work through this process as a community. There are a lot of things we don’t control, and so at this point I just ask you to have patience.”
After the shooting, plans were formed to have the U.S. Attorney’s Office provide assistance and training for the police department, which is expected to begin soon.
“We are in the middle of that right now; we were scheduled to have [U.S. Attorney] Larry Keefe here last week or so, but he wasn’t able to get here,” Robinson said. “I’m sure that’s on the board to reschedule and get him over here. They’re in the middle of their continued process here and that’s one of the things we want to talk to them about.’
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Tharp said in August that that support is expected to include training officers using resources from the Department of Justice and its agencies — an alphabet soup of FBI, DEA, Marshal’s Service and ATF. A meeting was held in late July to begin intra-agency coordination.
“The next step is coordinating more with the city, but also this issue isn’t just a local, Pensacola issue,” Tharp said. “It’s a regional issue so we’re going to ask our surrounding law enforcement agencies in the surrounding communities to also join the task force. And those invites will be going out soon.”
There’s also the idea of resurrecting a gun violence task force involving multiple law enforcement agencies in Northwest Florida. Besides the deep pockets, Tharp says DOJ can also cast a wider net than local, regional and state authorities.
“We can go outside the city of Pensacola; we can go outside the state of Florida, can go outside even our country’s borders to go after people that commit crime,” said Tharp. “But one of the other pieces that people don’t know about is the training piece. We have grants and different programs; these now will be highlighted with Pensacola Police and we’ll have events for local law enforcement.”
The grand jury in the Siemens case -— to be convened in the next couple of weeks — was scheduled upon receipt of the investigation of the shooting by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to the State Attorney’s Office.
“That’s not unusual,” said Mike Wood, the Public Information Officer for the Pensacola Police Department.
“[Siemen] was terminated for the department’s use of deadly force policy; not a law, not crimes, it was a policy,” said Wood. “That’s the route the chief of police chose to take; and we are restricted as to going any further until this case is finished with the grand jury.”
“After reviewing [the case] we determined that we needed to do some additional investigation and a re-interview of some of the witnesses that had been provided to us; we also determined that it was appropriate to present this matter to the grand jury,” said Bill Eddins, state attorney for Florida’s 1st Judicial Circuit.
“I expect to present evidence from the police officers, as well as from other witnesses that observed what occurred,” Eddins said. “As well as other information regarding the policies and procedures of the police department; as well as the training that’s been provided to the officers of that department.”
One of the most vocal groups speaking out against the shooting death of Tymar Crawford is Pensacola Dream Defenders. Calls to the group requesting an interview for this story were not returned.