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June 11, 2012 — Sarasota

During a traffic stop for a seat belt violation, deputies Adam Shaw and Troy Sasse walked toward Rodney Mitchell's car.

Mitchell's 16-year-old cousin, riding in the passenger seat, said Shaw approached the car aggressively and said, "Boy, why didn't you stop the car?" Deputies say Mitchell, 23, was looking away from them, ignoring their commands to put the car in park. Mitchell's cousin remembers Mitchell moving his hand from the steering wheel toward the gear shift to comply with the deputy's commands to put the car in park. At about that moment, the deputies fired.

They say Mitchell started driving toward Deputy Sasse, who was near the front of the vehicle, which is what prompted him to fire two shots. Deputy Shaw also fired two shots. One of Sasse's shots struck Mitchell in the palm and the head and killed him. Read more

The car veered across a highway and crashed in front of a gas station. Mitchell's cousin, covered in blood, fled barefoot to his aunt's house.

An investigation showed that Mitchell was unarmed and had his seatbelt on.

The state attorney ruled the shooting justified. Mitchell's family filed a federal lawsuit against the Sarasota sheriff and the two deputies. A U.S. district judge found in favor of the deputies.

One witness to the shooting said the car did not move until after the shots were fired. Evidence from an investigator hired by Mitchell's family shows that Sasse was not in the path of the vehicle. Sasse's own testimony alternates between being afraid the car was going to run him over and afraid when Mitchell moved his hand from the steering wheel to place the car in park.

Shaw has been the subject of several complaints filed by individuals claiming he pulled them over for not wearing seat belts, even though they were strapped in.

This was the 60th police shooting in Florida in 2012.

Four days earlier, one officer shot one person in Boynton Beach .

One day later, two officers shot one person in Boynton Beach .

5 ways this case compares to others

  1. Evidence in this case, and accounts given by officers and witnesses, included conflicting details. That was true for 27 other cases.
  2. Officers approached Mitchell after he was suspected of committing a minor crime. That’s true in 1 of every 12 cases.
  3. Police thought Mitchell, who was unarmed, was reaching for a weapon before shooting him. Thirty-eight unarmed people were shot when police said they saw them reach for something.
  4. A civil lawsuit was filed in response to Mitchell's shooting. Ninety other cases led to lawsuits.
  5. This shooting came after officers pulled over Mitchell for a traffic violation. Seventy-seven cases began with a traffic stop.

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