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Florida grand jury declines to indict officers in shooting of man in driveway

By Rich Phillips, CNN
October 17, 2013 -- Updated 1206 GMT (2006 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Roy Middleton was shot by Escambia County sheriff's officers
  • A grand jury declines to indict them in July incident
  • Sheriff maintains that Middleton did not respond to the deputies' commands

(CNN) -- A Florida grand jury this week found that two deputies in Pensacola should not be criminally charged in the wounding of an unarmed man, who was shot at 15 times while he was in his own driveway.

Roy Middleton, 60, was hit by two of those rounds in his legs. A metal rod had to be placed inside his left leg, which was shattered.

He spoke to CNN exclusively in August.

"How do I feel about what happened? How would anybody feel getting shot?" Middleton asked.

Unarmed man: I complied with officers

Middleton's attorney, Lorenzo Williams, told CNN on Wednesday that his client was distraught over the grand jury decision.

"This will not preclude Mr. Middleton from moving forward with a civil action," he said.

The officers were in fear for their own safety, the sheriff said in an interview after the incident.

The story began early July 27 when Middleton was returning to his Pensacola neighborhood.

Searching for a cigarette while inside his white Lincoln Town Car, he appeared to have been mistaken for a car thief by a concerned neighbor who called 911.

Escambia County Sheriff's Deputy Jeremiah Meeks and Sgt. Matthew White responded to the call.

"He came out of the car with more of a lunging motion coming out of the car, and the deputies were standing behind him and he had what appeared to be a metallic object in his hand," said Sheriff David Morgan.

"The tragedy of this is the noncompliance to the directions of law enforcement officers," Morgan said in August. "Had that occurred, we wouldn't be having this discussion. It's a tragedy all the way around. He is both a suspect and a victim."

According to the investigative report, Middleton had his keys and a small flashlight in his hand. Meeks testified that he thought a gun was being pointed at him. He fired 12 shots and White fired three times.

The case was turned over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). It provided a report to the Escambia County State Attorney, which took the case to the grand jury.

In the FDLE report, Middleton allegedly told investigators that he used crack cocaine and alcohol the day before, but only drank two beers earlier on the day of the shooting. But, the investigative report also states, "Toxicology records reflected the presence of cocaine and amphetamines in a urine sample taken from Middleton upon being admitted to the emergency room."

Middleton's attorney says the drugs allegedly in his client's system do not matter.

"I don't think it had any effect whatsoever. How did they make an observation that he was committing a crime? How could he present harm to a law enforcement officer? He was found by his car, with blood on the seat," said Williams.

Middleton was among those testifying before the grand jury.

Last month, District Attorney Bill Eddins told CNN, "this (case) is a little different than a typical case where a prosecutor seeks an indictment. I am remaining neutral."

"In this community, in order for the general public to have confidence in the criminal justice system, it's more appropriate for a cross-section of our community to review the case, " Eddins said. "It would be more appropriate for the grand jury to decide.

The grand jury recommended more intensive training for the first four years of an officer's career, and that this case be re-created for training purposes.

Morgan, in a statement released Wednesday, said his office will begin an internal investigation to determine whether there were any policy violations in the shooting.

"The outcome of this internal investigation will be based on facts and law, just as the process has been to this point. The deputies involved are assigned to administrative duties pending the outcome of the internal investigation," he said in a press release.

But Williams believes the grand jury's message to the sheriff bolsters his client's case.

"They have to improve their training programs," he told CNN. "It sends a strong signal to the sheriff's department that they are negligent in the training of their officers in the use of deadly force."

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