Cop who fatally shot colleague is cleared
A "perfect storm of bad events" is blamed in an Orlando officer's shooting of an undercover campus officer during a melee.
Published December 16, 2005
[RLANDO - An investigation has cleared an Orlando police officer of any wrongdoing for fatally shooting an undercover University of Central Florida officer he saw pointing a gun at a person during a tailgate party outside the Citrus Bowl in September.
Orlando Officer Dennis Smith thought he was shooting a civilian who was about to shoot a man on the ground, State Attorney Lawson Lamar said Thursday, announcing the conclusions of an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The man with the gun was UCF Officer Mario Jenkins, and the man on the ground was Michael Young, who authorities say grabbed Jenkins in a bear hug from behind as the officer tried to control another tailgater after a scuffle.
Jenkins, 29, who grew up in Tarpon Springs and was a Marine Corps veteran, was part of a team investigating underage drinking at the tailgate party before UCF's Sept. 25 game with Marshall. He was wearing a green shirt and a baseball cap.
He got into a scuffle when he was grabbed by Young, Lamar said. He fired shots in the air and shot Young to get him off his back.
Smith, a bicycle patrol officer, had been told shots were fired. He arrived on the scene to see tailgaters fleeing and Jenkins aiming his gun at Young on the ground. Smith drew his gun, and thinking Jenkins was turning to shoot him, shot Jenkins twice, Lamar said.
Before falling, Jenkins, mortally wounded, fired twice back at Smith but narrowly missed as Smith fired a third time.
Smith "acted lawfully and out of necessity," Lamar said.
"We don't impute any bad motive to Officer Jenkins," Lamar said. "He was in the midst of a tactical situation, was shot and returned fire. It was all part of the playing out of an extremely tense situation where the players didn't know who the other players were."
The undercover operation, the crowd noise and the multiple law enforcement agencies helping police the game led to a "perfect storm of bad events," he said.
UCF has since changed its policy to require all police officers patrolling football games to wear their uniforms.
Young, who recovered from his injury, apparently knew Jenkins was an officer, authorities said. He was charged Thursday with battery on a law enforcement officer, a third-degree felony, and obstructing or opposing a police officer, a first-degree misdemeanor.
Smith, through the Orlando Police Department's public information office, declined to comment.
Jenkins graduated in 1994 from Tarpon Springs High School. He served in the Marine Corps, joined the Clermont Police Department in 2000 and left shortly afterward to join the UCF Police Department.
[Last modified December 16, 2005, 00:53:08]
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