Leon County Grand Jury Brings No Charges For TPD Officers In 3 Police Shootings
A Leon County grand jury on Friday decided not to bring charges against Tallahassee officers in police shootings that killed three people this year.
Wilbon Woodard, who was 69 years old, was killed on May 19. Mychael Johnson, 31, was killed on March 20. In the most high-profile of the cases, 39-year-old Tony McDade, was shot and killed by police on May 27.
The grand jury’s reports on all three shootings detail what the panel of more than 20 people decided were lawful actions by TPD officers.
The report of Johnson’s case details the man leading police on a a high-speed chase in a stolen Chrysler, and attempting consequent carjacking after crashing the stolen car. After a struggle on the ground with police that included Jonson trying to take an officer’s gun, officer Zackri Jones shot him in the head.
In the case of Wilbon Woodard, officers were called in response to a man who said he’d been attacked outside a Chinese buffet on North Monroe Street. The officer who shot Woodard, whose name is redacted in the report, saw Woodard hiding in bushes and ordered him to “come out” – that’s when the report described Woodard charging the officer with a “hunting-style knife.” Woodard was shot five times, out of seven shots fired.
In the case of Tony McDade, who stabbed to death Malik Jackson just prior to the fatal altercation with police, the grand jury described McDade as being “in a shooting stance,” and “walking purposefully toward” the officer who fired the fatal shots.
The officer, whose name is redacted in the report, hit McDade with three of seven shots fired from about 15 yards away.
Mayor John Dailey responded to the grand jury’s decision during a press conference Friday.
“I want you to know that I respect the judicial process, and I know that the citizens who made up the grand jury had an exceedingly difficult task,” Dailey said, adding he appreciates jury members’ service in the midst of COVID-19.
“While these three incidents have been reviewed and resolved by the grand jury – that does not erase the pain and the trauma that these incidents have caused, especially in our communities of color. We cannot ignore the renewed cries for justice and police reform that have echoed throughout our city, and cities all across the country this summer.”
Dailey proposed three reforms going forward: For future police shootings to be reviewed by an outside law enforcement agency, like the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; an audit of TPD’s use of force policy by the City auditor; and adding mental health crisis assistance teams to local law enforcement response.
City Commissioner Jeremy Matlow, who has been critical of what he calls "a troubling relationship between TPD and our community’s most vulnerable," also issued a statement Friday.
"Like the public in general across Tallahassee, I’m still reviewing and evaluating this news. It’s a solemn time for our city," Matlow wrote. "My sincere hope is we can digest the meaning of these events in due time, demand full transparency and accountability, and eventually come out stronger."
Leon County government imposed a curfew through Tuesday, citing an expectation of protests over the weekend related to the grand jury’s decisions.
Local activist group the Tallahassee Community Action Committee has called a protest for Saturday. On Twitter, the group characterized the three police killings as “murders,” and is planning the protest downtown in response to the officers who “will walk free.”