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Elected officials call for transparency after TPD reportedly used force against unarmed black man near TGH

Posted at 4:34 PM, Jun 04, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. -- Seven black elected leaders in Hillsborough County are calling out Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Tampa police chief Brian Dugan after reports of "unprovoked use of force" from officers.

The elected leaders -- Sen. Darryl Rouson, Rep. Dianne Hart, Rep. Fentrice Driskell, Rep. Wengay Newton, Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller, Tampa city council member Orlando Gudes and Hillsborough County School Board's Tamara Shamburger -- released a joint statement saying, in part, that recent reports of Tampa police officers' "unprovoked use of force" against protesters "can not go unchecked."

The joint statement pointed out three incidents that caught the elected leaders' attention:

  • May 30 - TPD reportedly used rubber bullets and tear gas to get a "peaceful gathering of protesters" at Cyrus Greene Park to disperse
  • June 1 - TPD reportedly used force against an unarmed black man while on the grounds of Tampa General Hospital
  • June 2- TPD reportedly used "dehumanizing tactics" to disperse crowds of peaceful protesters in downtown Tampa.

The elected leaders said in their statement that the June 1 incident at TGH was unrelated to the protests. The elected leaders, however, called the second incident "equally disturbing."

"Let us be clear: we strongly condemn the use of force or violence by law enforcement against any protester who peacefully exercises their right to the freedom of assembly and expression," the joint statement said in part. "We also condemn the use of force or violence by law enforcement against unarmed individuals whose only crime appears to be living while black."

The elected leaders then called Mayor Castor and Dugan for more transparency in policing, as well as placing stronger limits on the use of force. The elected leaders also called for the police officers involved in the TGH incident to be relieved of their duties.

Nationwide and across the Tampa Bay area, protesters have taken to the streets for nearly a week in the wake of George Floyd's death.

Floyd's death caught the nation's attention after a viral video showed the 46-year-old Minnesota man struggling while in police custody back in late May. The video showed a white police officer, later identified as Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Floyd's neck.

Chauvin was initially charged with third-degree murder before Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced on Wednesday that Chauvin's charge upgraded to a second-degree murder. He’s also being charged with manslaughter.

The three other officers involved in the deadly incident -- Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane -- are being charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder for their role in Floyd's death.

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