Grand jury finds law enforcement officers justified in August shooting

A grand jury determined on Wednesday, Feb. 13, that law enforcement officers were justified in their actions on Aug. 6, 2018, says 19th Circuit State Attorney Ashley Albright. The grand jury was convened on Tuesday to hear testimony and review evidence regarding their use of deadly force.

The case in question involved a domestic violence situation to which the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office responded. According to Sheriff Noel E. Stephen, the suspect armed himself with a firearm and fled from the deputies; after which a low-speed chase took place, ending near the Oak Lake Villas on Southwest 28th Street.

Sheriff Stephen said, “At this point, the armed suspect confronted my deputies while he held a firearm to his own head. OCSO deputies started communicating with the armed suspect while they secured the other residents within the area. My Crisis Negotiation Team and my Special Response Team, comprised of OCSO deputies and members of the Okeechobee Police Department, were summoned to the scene to assist with the situation.

“On the same date, at approximately 11 p.m., the armed suspect chose to approach OCSO deputies while still armed. Several ‘less than lethal’ rounds were fired upon the armed suspect but were unsuccessful in ceasing the armed suspect’s advancement towards the deputies. Lethal force then had to be applied, and the armed suspect was subdued. He was later pronounced deceased by Okeechobee County Fire Rescue.”

The case was turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office for further investigation at that time and the officers involved were temporarily placed on paid administrative leave.

The case is now considered closed.

Cathy Womble is a staff writer for the Lake Okeechobee News.

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