A Florida sheriff is asking for calm after a white deputy shot and critically wounded an unarmed black man on Monday — with witness reports that claim the man had his hands up when he was shot.
“I ask everyone to not rush to judgment and allow the investigation to be completed,” Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings, who is black, said at a news conference surrounded by black religious leaders, Reuters reported.
After locating a stolen car at an apartment complex late Monday night, Sgt. Robert McCarthy fired three shots into the vehicle, hitting 28-year-old Cedric Bartee once.
The sheriff said Mr. Bartee failed to comply with the deputy’s commands and “made extensive furtive movements,” causing the deputy fear for his safety. However, witnesses at the apartment complex said Mr. Bartee and his passenger had their hands up when the deputy opened fire, Reuters reported.
Mr. Bartee underwent surgery and was in critical condition Monday afternoon, the sheriff said. The male passenger was reportedly arrested without injury.
Sgt. McCarthy has been reassigned to administrative duties for at least a week while the shooting is being investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Reuters reported.
Sheriff Demings said he was trying to be transparent in holding the press conference Monday, “because of the backdrop of everything happening in the country at this time.”
Some witnesses claimed in the Aug. 9 police shooting of Michael Brown that the unarmed black teen had his hands in the air when he was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The incident spurred the rallying cry, “Hands up, don’t shoot,” used by many protesters in the racial unrest that followed.
Sheriff Demings said “it’s concerning” how the public might react to this new shooting.
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