In an historic verdict, a now-former Florida police officer was convicted last week of manslaughter and attempted murder for the fatal shooting of a stranded motorist in 2015.
The 41-year-old former Palm Beach Gardens was found guilty by a West Palm Beach jury after a four-hour deliberation. His conviction makes him just the first police officer convicted of an on-duty homicide in three decades.
According to prosecutors, the defendant was working in plain clothes when he drove the wrong way on a highway on ramp early one October morning over three years ago. They say he failed to identify himself as a law officer when he approached the stranded motorist, and his actions were aggressive enough to make the motorist believe his life to be in danger from the defendant.
Investigators say the motorist, who held a valid concealed-carry license, produced his firearm and fled the scene. The defendant drew his own weapon and opened fire on the man, striking him three times with six shots, including a round that pierced his heart, killing him.
Prosecutors argued that the defendant's actions left much to be desired for an officer of the law. Despite being directed to wear a police vest when approaching the public, they say he wasn't wearing one at any point during the fatal encounter, nor did he ever produce a badge or any other form of identification showing him to be a police officer.
In addition the victim was on the phone to a tow service at the time, talking to a dispatcher on a recorded line. Prosecutors pointed out that the exchange between the two men made it clear that the victim had no reason to believe that the defendant was a police officer.
The defendant, who has been held under house arrest since 2016, will be sentenced late next month. He will be sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison, with a maximum sentence of life also a possibility.
The Law Offices of Bjorn Brunvand have been representing people charged with capital murder, felony drug charges, drunk driving, government fraud, and white-collar crimes for over a quarter century. Contact our office today to discuss your Tampa Bay-area state or federal charges.