TAMPA, Fla. — Five Tampa police officers will not face charges in a deadly officer-involved shooting nearly two months ago. In April, officers shot and killed Jonas Joseph following an incident.
A report by the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office called the shooting justified.
“These facts support a reasonable belief by the officers that they were in fear of imminent death or great bodily harm when they used deadly force,” the report reads. “Under Florida law, this means the use of deadly force is justified, and there is no legal basis for criminal charges against any of the officers.”
The Tampa Police Department says officers stopped Jonas Joseph while driving a car in April matching one used in a drive-by shooting days earlier. The report says officers spoke to Joseph for about 15 minutes. Then, police say Joseph put the car in reverse, hit a police car before trying to get away and then crashed into a tree.
The report says seven officers say they saw Joseph point a gun at them, and that they either heard the sound or saw the flash of one to three shots inside the car. According to the report, five officers shot at Joseph, and they fired again when the report says he started getting out of the car with a gun in his hand.
According to the report, officers fired 125 rounds, and Joseph was hit seven times.
“They came up with a false story that would sound legitimate enough to make sense to the public that would justify the shooting,” said Pastor Carl Soto of Black Lives Matter Restoration Polk.
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Activists question the lack of video evidence in the case. The report says none of the officers involved were wearing body cameras, nor did their police cars have dashboard cameras. The state attorney’s office report says 60 out of TPD’s nearly 1,000 officers have been issued body cameras, while 93 of 1,200 TPD cars are equipped with dash cameras. One officer's body camera captured footage after the fact when the officer responded to the scene.
TPD explained with their extensive force and fleet, not all can be fitted with a camera.
“We are demanding the FBI to come in and investigate,” said Soto. “We’re are going to demand that outside sources of law enforcement come in and investigate this case.”
The report says no shell casings were found from Joseph’s guns. The report states while that could suggest he didn’t shoot, it could also mean simply that casings were never located.
“Even assuming that Joseph did not fire the gun in his hand, his action of pointing a gun at police officers would be enough to establish that the officers were in imminent fear for their lives or the lives of others,” the report states.
TPD said two guns were recovered at the scene, including one matching the ballistics of the gun used in the drive-by shooting. TPD says the department has always stood by transparency and adhering to the highest standards of policing.
"The last thing officers want to do is use deadly force. Regardless of the circumstances, we acknowledge the grief of the family and community. Since the shooting, our department has been fully cooperative with the independent investigation of the SAO. In this case, it is clear our officers were forced into responding to the threat of the imminent danger they faced," said Tampa police chief Brian Dugan.
You can click here to read the full report from the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office.