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Officer on leave after car shooting

Another officer is under investigation. She reportedly stood in front of the stolen car once it stopped, violating an order issued after the 1996 TyRon Lewis shooting.

By LEANORA MINAI

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 21, 2000


ST. PETERSBURG -- A police officer who fired his gun at a suspected carjacker was placed on administrative leave Thursday while the internal affairs unit determines whether he violated policy.

A second officer involved in Wednesday's felony traffic stop also is under investigation but was not placed on leave.

She reportedly stood in front of the stolen car after it was stopped by other officers. That could violate an order written after the fatal shooting of TyRon Lewis in 1996.

No one was injured in the traffic stop at 628 36th Ave. S.

Brian Brickhouse, the driver of the stolen 1987 Cadillac DeVille, was arrested after authorities said he tried to run down the officer who stood in front of the Cadillac. He was charged with aggravated assault with a motor vehicle, grand theft auto, fleeing and eluding and resisting arrest. He is in the Pinellas County Jail.

The incident drew comparisons to the Lewis shooting, which happened during a traffic stop. Lewis reportedly bumped an officer onto the hood with his car, prompting the officer to fire his gun. Lewis' death sparked two nights of disturbances in St. Petersburg.

Both Wednesday night and Thursday, there was a considerably more measured reaction by activists in the neighborhoods wracked by violence after the Lewis shooting.

"I don't think there's going to be any knee-jerk response from folk, but there is still concern with the ease at which police officers are firing their weapons," said Omali Yeshitela, a community activist who furiously decried the police department after the Lewis shooting.

The entire incident lasted four minutes -- from the time Brickhouse was pulled over to the moment he was apprehended after a short foot chase.

Patrol Officer Jason Deary, who has been on the force about 2 1/2 years, was on patrol Wednesday night when he saw a yellow Cadillac that matched the description of one stolen Monday from a fisherman at the Coquina Key boat ramp.

Deary, 27, called for backup, turned on his emergency lights and pulled behind the Cadillac. He and another officer got out of their cruisers and approached the Cadillac from the rear with their guns drawn. Deary told Brickhouse to get out with his hands up, police said. A third officer, 28-year-old Amy Christian, pulled up and stood along the driver's side of the Cadillac toward the front, according to a witness.

"Get out of the car!" Christian instructed the driver.

Brickhouse put his hands up but did not get out of the car. Then he accelerated, missing Christian. Deary fired once. The bullet lodged in the frame of the Cadillac's rear window, police said.

Brickhouse drove a few blocks and crashed into a telephone pole. He jumped out and ran away but was quickly apprehended.

According to department policy, "members shall not place themselves in harm's way by standing or moving in front of a vehicle . . ."

"No, we don't like to have any officer in front of any car on any type of traffic stop," Assistant Chief Chuck Harmon said on Thursday.

But Harmon, head of patrol, said he did not know whether the officers violated policies or procedure.

"We need to evaluate that on the totality of the case," he said.

The department's general orders include rules about firing at fleeing criminals and moving vehicles. Warning shots are not permitted, and shots should not be fired at a moving car unless other reasonable means to avoid danger have failed.

An officer is permitted to use his or her gun "when other reasonable means to avoid the danger have failed and the officer reasonably believes that this action is necessary to defend oneself or another from death or serious physical injury."

In April, Detective Tim Sammetinger got a written warning for shooting at a moving car in an alley earlier in that month. The driver of the stolen car was accelerating toward Sammetinger.

Deary was placed on routine paid administrative leave Thursday and Friday while the shooting is investigated.

Both he and Christian have previously received commendations for their work. Deary also has two employee notices, one for an unauthorized traffic pursuit. He dropped out of the Clearwater Police Department as a probation officer in 1997 before applying to the St. Petersburg police force.

Christian, who has also been on the force for about 2 1/2 years, is a former diamond saleswoman for Service Merchandise. She has never previously faced disciplinary action.

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