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Deputy cleared in drug raid death

In his report, State Attorney Bernie McCabe pointed out the tension between police and the black community.

Published May 3, 2005

ST. PETERSBURG - State Attorney Bernie McCabe has cleared a sheriff's deputy of any criminal wrongdoing in the April 12 shooting of an unarmed man during a drug raid on his home.

Cpl. Christopher Taylor acted in the "legal performance of his lawful duties" when he twice shot 19-year-old Jarrell S. Walker, McCabe stated in a six-page report released Monday.

Walker refused to obey Taylor's repeated commands to remain still and show his hands, according to the report. Walker's "extremely poor judgment" forced Taylor to shoot him, McCabe said.

"(Walker's) actions, whether intended to locate and retrieve a weapon, find and discard evidence, or simply his lack of fear and respect for the deputy, caused Corporal Taylor to believe that his life and safety were at risk," McCabe wrote.

Wanda Walker called McCabe's findings in the shooting death of her son a "cover up."

"It's not a surprise and it's not over," she said Monday. "He cannot justify shooting an unarmed man. My son did not have a gun. He was not reaching for a gun."

Walker's family said he was asleep when members of the SWAT team burst into the home and posed no threat.

According to McCabe's report, the shooting unfolded this way:

Eight members of the Pinellas County Sheriff's special weapons and tactics team, including Taylor, burst into the house on 16th Avenue S just before 9 p.m. to execute a narcotics search warrant.

Taylor encountered Walker, who was lying on a couch, and ordered him to lie down on the floor. Walker slid off the couch and lay on his left side. His left hand was under the skirt of the couch.

Taylor yelled at Walker to show his hands. Walker reached his right hand into his pants, then removed it and patted under the couch again. He then reached his hand back into his pants and then again back under the couch.

Taylor stepped forward "lightly striking Walker on the shoulder with his foot to ensure Walker" knew he was talking to him, the report stated. Walker made eye contact with Taylor and then quickly began to pull his right hand out from under the couch.

Taylor knew that during an earlier drug raid on March 15, St. Petersburg police recovered a semiautomatic pistol from the couch area, the report said. He feared Walker was about to pull a gun, so he shot him twice, the report said.

No weapons were found near the couch. A pistol was found in another part of the home.

In his report, McCabe acknowledged the rift between law enforcement and some residents in the black community.

He suggested Pinellas Sheriff Jim Coats and other agencies make it known to the community " ... that deadly force remains the last and final resort."

Sheriff's spokesman Mac McMullen said the office will complete a standard internal review of the Walker shooting in the next few weeks. Taylor, 33, is back at work, though he will not go out on any SWAT calls until the review is complete, McMullen said.

[Last modified May 3, 2005, 01:17:08]

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