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City Delays Naming Officer Who Shot And Killed Tony McDade, Gives PBA Time To File Additional Challenge

police cars are parked along the road of a brown apartment complex. A tree is in the background.
Ryan Dailey
TPD officers were at the scene of an officer involved shooting at Leon Arms apartment complex on Tallahassee's Southside just after 11 a.m. Wednesday.

The City of Tallahassee has pushed back the date it intends to name the officer who shot and killed Tony McDade, now planning to do so no earlier than Friday. The move is a reversal of the City’s announcementlast week that it would be releasing the identification of the officer, whose name has been sealed since the shooting, on Monday.

A spokesperson for the City says the delay is intended to give the Police Benevolent Association time to file an additional legal challenge, after a Leon County judge rejected a request for an injunction filed by the PBA to keep the officer’s identity concealed on Friday.

“The City of Tallahassee has been notified of the PBA’s intent to file a motion this week related to Marsy’s Law,” the City’s statement says. “With respect for the legal process, the City has agreed to respect the PBA’s effort to seek a court ruling to determine if a police officer is exempt under the victim’s rights state constitutional amendment.”

The PBA’s argument hinges on whether Marsy’s Law applies to the fatal police shooting – the third one in Tallahassee since current Police Chief Lawrence Revell took the helm. Marsy’s Law is a 2018 state constitutional amendment adopted by voters, that conceals the identity of crime victims.

McDade, a black transgender man, is accused of fatally stabbing 21-year-old Malik Jackson just minutes before being shot and killed by police.

Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell told media at the scene that McDade was holding a gun when the officer opened fire and killed him. The agency says because McDade is accused of pointing a gun toward the officer, the officer can be categorized as a “victim” – and the identity can be subject to hiding. TPD has not said whether body camera footage of the incident exists.

During a court hearing last week, PBA attorney Stephen Webster described the officer’s actions as “absolutely, defensible, understandable and predictable acts of self-defense,” citing a video posted to McDade’s Facebook page prior to his death that shows McDade talking about a potential standoff with police.

The City of Tallahassee argued the officer is under investigation and therefore, cannot be both the accused and the victim. All officer-involved shootings are reviewed by the state attorney and a grand jury.

Meanwhile, protesters taking to the Tallahassee streets demanding justice for police brutality nationwide, LGBTQ+ organizations and activist groups like the Tallahassee Community Action Committee, have been calling for Revell to release the body camera footage and for the chief to resign.

Delilah Pierre, a member of the TCAC, said of the agency using the Marsy’s Law argument: “You’re expected to serve and protect us, yet you consider yourself to be a victim. You don’t use the money taxpayers give you to do something important and relevant to this community. You’re no victim.”

Jennifer Fennell, a spokesperson for Marsy’s Law for Florida, provided the following statement:

“Police officers who have become victims of crime deserve the same constitutional rights as everyone else. But police officers who have committed crimes cannot hide behind Marsy’s Law.

Marsy’s Law grants constitutional rights to all victims of crime, in the same way that all persons accused of a crime in Florida have constitutional rights. Victim status in Florida is granted to all victims of crime, without discrimination.

The Florida Constitution does not distinguish victim status between members of the public and police officers so any citizen can be a victim of a crime, even if they are a public employee. However, the Marsy’s Law provision of the constitution is clear when it says that the accused cannot also be a victim.

If a determination is made that a police officer has broken the law in the case, they become a defendant in that case and as such they automatically lose all their rights as a victim under the Marsy’s Law provision of the Florida Constitution and their name must be released.

The Marsy’s Law organization believes that in the interest of transparency and consistent with Florida’s tradition of government transparency that authorities should make this determination as quickly as possible.”

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.