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JSO defends officers' actions in police-involved shooting

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Updated: 11/13/2007 6:31 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is defending its officers’ actions after a police-involved shooting on the Westside Monday night.

Just before 9 p.m., police say two undercover officers were trying to buy crack cocaine from two alleged drug dealers at the Hospitality Inn on the 7000 block of 103rd Street. According to JSO, one of the suspects grabbed the drug money, pulled out a gun and tried to rob the officer. Detective Christy Bowen then pulled out her gun, fired two shots and hit suspect Johnny Smith in the torso. The other suspect fled the scene.

Police still haven’t revealed a description of the missing suspect, but are continuing to search for him and say they consider him dangerous

Smith is currently at Shands Jacksonville, and has asked that his condition not be released.
On Tuesday, Asst. Police Chief Rick Graham praised the work the officers did and called the suspects “gun toting thugs”.

“It is upsetting when we’ve got [officers] out there on the streets doing their jobs, trying to make our city safe, and these gun toting thugs choose to potentially try to take the lives of our men and women,” said Graham.

Both of the undercover officers are said to be shaken, but OK.

More Police-Involved Shootings This Year

According to the sheriff's office, there have been 15 police-involved shootings this year.  13 of the suspects were armed; 8 of them fired before the police officer fired back.  All of the shootings so far have been found to be justified.

This latest shooting on the westside is not as controversial as several others that have happened this year.

In the latest incident, the suspect, Johnny Smith, is an accused crack dealer who was shot by an officer during an undercover drug deal.  Smith survived, and police say he pulled out a gun first.

But in January of this year, a police-involved shooting at the Sable Palms apartments raised some ethical eyebrows.  18-year-old DJ Woods was shot and killed by a police officer, also during an undercover drug deal.  Witnesses say Woods only had a cell phone in his pocket; officers said he had a gun.

Then in February, 80-year-old Isaac Singletary was shot and killed in another drug sting in the same neighborhood.  Undercover officers were allegedly conducting a deal on Singletary's property.  Neighbors say Singletary fired his gun to run them off; they say he didn't know the supposed drug dealers were cops.

Assistant chief Rick Graham defends JSO's undercover cops, saying a "shoot first, ask questions later" reputation is undeserved. “When is there time to ask any questions...when you have a gun pointed at your face.  You gotta react.  Let there be no mistake and be assured that when confronted by a gun-toting thug who chooses to initiate a life or death situation involving our officers, that our officers have the ability and the willingness to do their jobs and protect themselves and others."
There were only seven police involved shootings last year; this year that number has more than doubled.  But police say they're having more confrontations with what they call “gun-toting thugs.”

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