One of her attorneys says police could have used nonlethal methods to subdue her 16-year-old son in the 2002 incident at a friend's home.
By CHRIS TISCH
Published May 25, 2004
CLEARWATER - The mother of a teen shot and killed by a police officer in 2002 has put the city on notice that she intends to sue.
Brian Hickman Jr., 16, was shot to death by Officer Marcus Lane on Nov. 11, 2002. The shooting occurred in the Countryside Boulevard home of Hickman's friend.
Police said Lane fired at Hickman because the teen was charging at him with a knife. A review by both the State Attorney's Office and the Police Department's Office of Professional Standards found Lane's actions were proper.
But attorneys hired by Hickman's mother, Tammy Anderson, suggested in a letter to city officials that police had options other than shooting Hickman. They plan to sue the city, not Lane.
"There are nonlethal alternatives, which, for whatever reason, the police have elected not to employ," said John Trevena, one of the attorneys working for Anderson.
Police spokesman Wayne Shelor said he had not seen the notice to sue, which was mailed to the city May 7. He declined comment because the case is pending litigation.
Lane, who was a 10-year agency veteran at the time of the shooting, retired in December. He secured a job-connected disability pension.
City officials said the disability was related to stress Lane experienced after the shooting.
"It was entirely related to the incident," said Sgt. Doug Griffith, who added that Lane had tried to come back to work but couldn't.
Human Resources director Joe Roseto said doctors determined Lane could no longer be a police officer. A pension advisory committee agreed.
"After the shooting, it was stress-related," Roseto said. "I guess the situation was such, the impact it had on him personally, he was never able to return to duty.
"I think any time you're involved in something like that there's a certain amount of trauma," he added.
Lane and other officers were dispatched with lights and sirens that day to the area of Curlew Road and Countryside Boulevard to investigate reports that two boys armed with knives were threatening construction workers.
Lane saw two teens running away as he arrived. He and other officers tracked them to a home, where Jim Andrew, 17, told officers that Hickman and his brother, Tim Andrew, 15, had been drinking. Jim Andrew had called 911 to report that the two younger boys were armed with knives and were drinking.
Several officers, including Lane and Sgt. William Valveri, entered the home. After officers secured the first floor, Lane started up the stairs with Valveri behind him. Lane had his gun drawn. Valveri carried a Taser.
As Lane neared the top of the stairwell in the second-floor hallway, he encountered Tim Andrew, who was holding his hands in the air. Lane told Andrew to descend the stairs, and the teen complied.
Lane then heard a growl-like scream and saw Hickman charging him with a 131/2-inch-long carving knife over his head, police said. Lane tried backing down the stairwell, but police said Hickman kept coming at him. Lane fired twice, hitting Hickman in the chest and hip. He died in the home.
Valveri triggered his Taser almost simultaneously, but the sergeant had not activated the weapon and it did not fire.
Police said the Taser could have been considered a second option to lethal force, but the attack on the officers happened so fast that the sergeant didn't have time to use it.
Trevena thinks otherwise.
"They should have used the Taser," he said. "That's the bottom line. There was no reason to kill this boy. None."