An unarmed Tampa man was mortally wounded by a Hillsborough county sheriff’s deputy on Tuesday morning in the course of serving a warrant in the Clair-Mel area.
The Hillsborough Sheriff’s SWAT team arrived around 8 A.M. at a home near S 78th Street and Palm River Road to serve a search warrant. The deputies were in search of 22-year-old Levonia Riggins, who had been the subject of a month-long narcotics investigation.
Upon executing the warrant, deputies say that all but one of the individuals inside exited the home. They say those who came out told them that Riggins was still within, likely towards the rear of the house. Deputies re-entered the home in search of Riggins, and, upon finding him, Deputy Caleb Johnson opened fire, fatally wounding him. A press release issued by the sheriff’s office says that Johnson, a 32-year-old deputy “perceived Riggins as an immediate threat” and fired upon the unarmed Riggins.
Riggins, who was often referred to by his nickname “Daddyman,” was taken to Tampa General Hospital. A family friend told local media that he was pronounced dead around noon on Tuesday. The Sheriff’s Office did not specify whether deputies discovered any illegal drugs or contraband at the residence, but a family friend told local media that Riggins’ family believes investigators retrieved about two grams of cannabis from his body.
Deputy Johnson, who has been employed as a deputy for seven years, three of which have been on the SWAT team, was placed on paid administrative leave pending a review by the department, according to the press release. The Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office will likely investigate the situation as well.
Friends say Riggins earned a living cutting grass and working construction jobs in addition to a part-time position at a nearby convenience store. They say his father had recently passed, and that he had been raised by a foster mother, whom he worked to support. Riggins had a significant history of arrests, according to relevant state records. He had been arrested almost two dozen times in Florida. His most recent arrest was in April, 2015 by Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Deputies for possession of cannabis with an intent to sell, possession of drug paraphernalia, and non-violently resisting an officer.
The shooting sparked two days of civil unrest in the neighborhood, centered around the convenience store Riggins worked at prior to his death. Local media reports protesters blocking traffic in the area and at least one arrest, although a spokesperson from the sheriff’s office was unable to confirm the latter. Hillsborough county officials conferred with NAACP representatives and local church authorities on Thursday night in an effort to defuse the situation.