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Tampa officer cleared in fatal shooting of teen

Whether the rookie officer violated any Police Department policies is still open to investigation.

By LINDA GIBSON

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 16, 2001


TAMPA -- A rookie Tampa police officer has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing in the fatal shooting last December of a 16-year-old youth in a stolen car.

Officer David Duncan shot Antonio Lamar Scott on Dec. 23 after the teen refused commands to get out of the stolen 2001 GMC Yukon he was driving, police reports said.

After stopping the Yukon, Duncan ran up to the driver's door with his gun drawn, pulled the door open and yelled repeatedly at Scott to get out. The teenager just looked at him, Duncan told investigators.

"I couldn't tell for sure, but in my mind, I thought I saw his right hand go up and make a movement with the gear shifter on the vehicle," he told investigators.

Duncan, 23, said the driver's door bumped him as the car started rolling backward. That's when he fired. Officers found a BB gun in the car.

Scott, from east Tampa, had a history of arrests on charges of auto theft, auto burglary and aggravated battery.

When deciding whether a police shooting is justified, prosecutors must look at the situation from the perspective of a reasonable officer making split-second judgments under tense, uncertain and rapidly changing circumstances, State Attorney Mark Ober said Wednesday.

Under that standard, Ober said, Duncan's use of deadly force was reasonable.

Whether his actions followed established police policies is another matter. Ober has told police Chief Bennie Holder that he is concerned about how officers handle traffic stops.

It is the second time in three months that Ober has reviewed the police shooting of a suspect in a stolen car. In both cases, officers trying to get suspects out of the cars found themselves trapped by doors hanging open.

In January, Ober cleared Officers James Dausch and Jeff Sanchez in the Dec. 3 shooting of 20-year-old Tavaris D. Caldwell. Caldwell backed up a Honda Accord while both of its doors were open, knocking down Dausch and another officer. Officers fired three shots at Caldwell, who was hit but still managed to back the car across six lanes of traffic along Hillsborough Avenue.

The Police Department must now decide whether Duncan violated any department policies.

Duncan, five days short of completing his first year on the force when the shooting occurred, is on paid administrative leave pending the review.

His partner that night, volunteer reserve Cpl. Brian Brundage, also is on leave until the department finishes its internal affairs investigation.

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