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Congressman requests probe of shooting death

By Times staff writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 4, 2002

A U.S. congressman has turned to federal officials for a deeper investigation into the May 22 Pasco County Sheriff's Office killing of Sharleen "Sally" Jones.

In June, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Pasco-Pinellas State Attorney's Office found that Deputy Erica Fernandez was justified to shoot Jones.

Now Rep. Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, a nonvoting delegate to Congress from American Samoa, wants Attorney General John Ashcroft to look into the case.

In a July 24 letter to Ashcroft, Faleomavaega wrote that "what really happened . . . remains to be answered."

Eight other members of Congress signed the letter.

Jones, 39, was at her family's jewelry store, Dan's Fine Jewelry in Zephyrhills, when Fernandez was sent to check on her after a reported suicide threat. There was a confrontation inside the store, and Fernandez fired three times.

Fernandez told investigators that Jones had a gun in her hand.

Jones' husband, Byron, arrived at the store and saw his wife fall. The letter to Ashcroft states that he never saw a gun in his wife's hand.

Among other questions, the letter states that it needs to be determined if race played a role in the shooting.

Jones is an American Samoan, the letter states. She was closing the store and planning to move to the group of six Polynesian islands in the South Pacific.

Jones' family has notified the Sheriff's Office that they intend to sue.

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