November 9, 2009

Bradenton Police Refuse to Accept Responsibility for Taser-Killing of Derrick Humbert

When will the police step up and accept responsibility for killing 38-year old Derrick Humbert back in September? Villagers may recall that Officers Del Shiflett and Christopher Roden, were clad in plainclothes, when they drove up on Humbert, who was riding a bicycle. Humbert wasn't wanted for any warrants. He was a father of four simply riding his bicycle.

The bike had no headlight affixed, which is against state law, according to the police. Shiflett and Roden made a tragic decision to hassle Mr. Humbert because his bicycle didn't have a headlight. Since when is DEATH the penalty for lack of a bicycle headlight?

Beth Burger, criminal justice reporter for the Bradenton Herald, shares a number of errors and ommissions by Shiflett and Roden in this taser-related death:
  1. The two Bradenton Police Department officers did not turn on the blue emergency lights on their patrol car.

  2. The officers never radioed dispatch that they were about to make a traffic stop. According to the police department's general orders, officers making traffic stops are supposed to notify dispatchers about the location of the stop and description of the vehicle.

  3. In cases where there are two officers in one patrol car, the cop in the passenger seat is supposed to be responsible for radio communications, note taking and relaying messages. Roden did not call dispatchers until after the foot chase began, according to police radio recordings.

  4. The officers, who were both trained to use video cameras in their police car, never activated the camera during their encounter. Having that video coverage might have given police investigators and the family of Derrick Humbert a better idea of what happened when Humbert led officers on a chase that ended with one of the officers shooting Humbert in the back with a Taser.

So, we are left with another dead Black man ... killed by taser-wielding police officers. Humbert was pronounced dead a short time after he was arrested. Officer Shiflett is the officer that used his taser gun to jolt 50,000 volts of electricity into the back of Mr. Humbert.

"You got him cuffed, Del?" Roden radioed.

"54 (Negative). I got on scene. I got him down. He's not moving," Shiflett replied.
A medical examiner's office is awaiting a toxicology report in order to determine a cause of death.

A police review of the case also is continuing, but Bradenton Police Deputy Chief William Tokajer said despite questions about how the officers attempted to pull over Humbert for a traffic stop, investigators have not found that the officers acted improperly, including in how the Taser was used. In other words, the police are not taking any responsibility for this man's death.

The Humbert family, which includes his four children, have many unanswered questions about what happened.

Humbert was going down the street to buy cigarettes, said Barbara Humbert, one of Humbert's sisters. He was staying with his girlfriend, she said.

"You really don't know what to think. There's so many rumors," she said. "We really need to know what happened that night." Had the officers used a camera and audio technology installed in their patrol car, Humbert's family would be able to watch the stop unfold.

"It looks suspicious. No matter which way the wind blows, it looks suspicious," she said.

Even though the law was followed, she believes the officers went too far.

"I think it was still wrong. They pulled him over for lights on his bicycle," she said. "If that was the main reason for pulling him over, they had the bike when he dumped it."
It amazes me that there is no consequences for the two officers involved in this extra-judicial electrocution. The shooter, Officer Shiflett was hired in January 2008 and is described by his supervisor as being a "new officer with little experience."

Officer Roden has been a police officer with the Bradenton Police Department since December 2008. He was fired in 2004 for lying in an arrest report. The sheriff's office fired Roden because his credibility could be considered questionable when making arrests.

Since the incident, the officers have remained on the job. Does the Bradenton Police Department have no shame?

What are your thoughts? Do you get a sense that something is wrong when people are being killed by taser-happy police officers at a rate of once-per-week in America? Will you support our Day of Blogging for Justice: Stop Taser Torture call-to-action on December 4th?


RiPPa said...

A bike? No seriously, a bike?!!

clnmike said...

Unreal, at this point proper traing of the use of tasers is useless. They need to be banned, there use is obviously being abused ny the cops and in fact the "non-lethal" status of the devices are probably seen by the cops as a green light to "shoot" first and ask questions later.

Villager said...

RiPPa - Yeah ... I was shocked when I realized that the brother was pulled over for not having a light on his bicycle. Of course, I did have to wonder why a 38-yo man was riding a bike in the first place. But, he didn't deserve to die that night.

Mike - I think that I'm not yet ready to call for a ban on tasers. I would prefer to see the 'use of force continuum' policy updated to show tasers as being less than lethal just below the level of using a gun. Right now tasers are equated with pepper spray in many police departments.