Sheriff’s candidates say George Floyd’s death, national response will be an issue in their race

PHOTO BY NICK SAMUEL

All five candidates for sheriff say the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month and subsequent nationwide protests will be an issue in the race here, and they expect to be asked about it as they campaign.

Two of them – Fellsmere Police Chief Keith Touchberry and retired Sheriff’s Capt. Chuck Kirby – have addressed the incident extensively on their campaign Facebook pages, where they also discussed the strategies they would employ to prevent and respond to any such incidents involving their deputies.

They also expressed a need to improve the relationship between the county’s largest law enforcement agency and the local black community.

Touchberry condemned both the actions of the Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, and the three officers who “did nothing to prevent this tragedy.”

He wrote in his May 30 Facebook post that leaders in the law enforcement profession need to better prepare officers for the “ethical challenges” they will face during their careers.

“We must do better to teach our officers to have the moral courage to do the right thing, regardless of how they think their peers may treat them,” Touchberry wrote. “Having the moral courage to do the right thing is what’s necessary to manage police conduct before it becomes criminal.”

Kirby, the only candidate for sheriff to participate in a protest against police brutality on May 31, cited in a Facebook post the “unnecessary deaths of Byruss Green and Alteria Woods” in shootings involving the Sheriff’s Office in Gifford as a reason for increased mistrust between the agency and local black community. Green was killed Nov. 16, 2007, and Woods was killed March 19, 2017.

According to incident reports: Green was shot in the upper torso after he brandished a knife and “moved aggressively” toward deputies; and Woods was shot 10 times during a SWAT team drug raid targeting her boyfriend, Andrew Coffey IV, who allegedly fired the first shot.

“While municipal police agencies in Indian River County enjoy relative widespread support,” Kirby wrote in a Facebook post last week, “the unnecessary deaths of Byruss Green and Alteria Woods during encounters with the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office have fueled community concerns ranging from unconscious bias up to institutionalized racism.”

He added: “What’s broken is not simply transparency or accountability, it’s trust!”

Both candidates wrote that, if elected, they would equip deputies with body cameras and work to develop and nurture a culture of cooperation and trust between the agency and community.

While Kirby favors the creation of a civilian board to review complaints made against deputies and the agency, Touchberry – emphasizing that he’s not opposed to the concept – said he’d prefer the community first give him a chance to prove he’s serious about fixing flaws.

“See what changes we can bring about first,” Touchberry said. “If, after a year, you don’t like what we’re doing, we can address your concerns and try something different.”

Touchberry, though, said he’s aware that a significant segment of the local black population believes members of their community are being targeted, merely because of their race, and that excessive force is too often used.

“When I did my town hall meetings, that’s what people were saying – and not just in the black community,” Touchberry said, adding, “So with everything that’s going on after Minneapolis and an election coming up, we’re going to be asked about it.”

Sheriff’s Maj. Eric Flowers, who has received a full-throated endorsement from outgoing Sheriff Deryl Loar, said the agency echoes the sentiments expressed by the Florida Sheriff’s Association, which strongly criticized the police conduct in Minneapolis.

“The Minneapolis police officer used deadly force in a situation where there was no justification,” FSA President Bob Gualtieri said in a prepared statement. “The other officers present should have intervened to stop the officer who had his knee on George Floyd’s neck.

“These officers’ actions are not representative of sheriff’s deputies in Florida or the law enforcement profession.”

Flowers called the Floyd killing a “terrible tragedy,” and he believes the “national unrest” and “call for change” it has inspired will be a topic of discussion during the remainder of the campaign.

“We, as an agency, condemned the actions in that video,” Flowers said. “That’s not how we function. We don’t teach choke holds.”
Still, Flowers expects his political rivals to use the Floyd killing to connect him and his campaign to the fatal shootings of Green and Woods.

“At the same time, there are a lot of people in the community who want to support the police,” Flowers said. “We have to continue to partner with everyone in the community.”

Indian River Shores Public Safety Director Rich Rosell criticized Chauvin’s tactics, understands the response to Floyd’s death and said he will address the issue when he presents his platform this week.

“What happened in Minneapolis is going to come up, because the entire incident was caught on video and people are looking for action, not equivocation,” Rosell said. “How much of an issue it will be in our race, it’s hard to tell.”

Deborah Cooney, who is running as an independent, closed Aug. 18’s four-man Republican primary to Democrats and voters with no part affiliation when she qualified as a candidate last week.

She said the Floyd killing should be an issue in the race, and she supports Black Lives Matter’s call to defund the police.

“The sheriff has been decimating our African-American community here in Indian River County,” Cooney wrote in an email. “Take a drive through Gifford and you will see the effects.”

Related Articles

Comments:

crobb June 22, 2020

All the demonstrations over police misconduct overlooked how many police were injured around the country. Here’s a list:• Albany, NY – police officer hit by a brick on May 30; treated and released
• Asbury Park, NJ – police officer hit by a rock on June 1; condition unknown
• Atlanta, GA – police officer Maximilian Brewer struck by an ATV on May 30; recovering from surgery
• Boston, MA – seven officers suffered unspecified injuries; conditions unknown
• Brockton, MA – state trooper and multiple police officers hit by bottles and rocks on June 2; conditions unknown
• Buffalo, NY – Buffalo officer and two state troopers struck by vehicles on June 1, one of those troopers run over and suffered serious injuries; conditions unknown
• Champaign, IL – multiple officers suffered unspecified minor injuries on May 31
• Columbia, SC – three Richland County Sheriff’s deputies and 12 Columbia officers suffered unspecified minor injuries on May 30
• Chicago – 132 officers suffered unspecified injuries in multiple incidents over the weekend through Monday, June 1. One officer was seriously injured with broken bones on May 30.
• Davenport, IA – undercover officer in unmarked vehicle shot in ambush on June 1; condition unknown
• Denver, CO – three officers struck by a vehicle in a hit-and-run incident on May 30; two have been released from the hospital, condition of the third unknown
• Harrisburg, PA – two Pennsylvania Capitol Police officers suffered unspecified minor injuries on May 30
• Huntsville, AL – one officer suffered a minor injury to his head by a thrown object on June 3
• Jacksonville, FL – a police officer’s neck was slashed by a rioter; condition unknown
• Las Vegas, NV – Las Vegas Police officer Shay Mikalonis was shot in the head during a protest on June 1; currently on life support in critical condition. Twelve other officers injured on May 29; conditions unknown
• Los Angeles, CA – 27 Los Angeles police officers injured in multiple incidents, one suffering a fractured skull
• New York City, NY – at least 33 officers injured in multiple incidents; conditions unknown. One officer struck by a vehicle in intentional hit-and-run; hospitalized in stable condition. One officer stabbed in the neck and two others shot in ambush; conditions unknown
• Oakdale, CA – two officers suffered unspecified minor injuries breaking up a fight between protesters and counterprotesters
• Oak Lawn, IL – three officers suffered unspecified minor injuries on June 1
• Oakland, CA – End of Watch May 29 – Federal law enforcement officer David Patrick Underwood was shot and killed in a drive-by ambush outside the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building where he and another officer were providing security. The other officer was also wounded and is in critical condition.
• Philadelphia, PA – at least 13 officers suffered unspecified minor injuries in multiple incidents
• Pittsburgh, PA – nine officers suffered unspecified minor injuries from thrown objects on June 1; treated and released
• Prince William County, VA – four county officers hit by rocks and other objects in the overnight period of May 30-31; one hospitalized. Virginia State Police reported 10 troopers injured.
• Providence, RI – eight to ten officers were hit by bricks on June 2; only minor injuries reported
• Richmond, VA – two Capitol police officers hit by baseball bat and beer bottle on May 30; recovering. Two officers struck during exchange of gunfire with rioter
• Sacramento, CA – seven officers sustained minor injuries when hit by objects on May 29
• Salt Lake City, UT – 21 officers injured on May 30, including one hit in the head with a baseball bat; all treated and released
• San Antonio, TX – three officers hit by thrown bricks and bottles; conditions unknown
• San Jose, CA – multiple officers struck by rocks and bottles on May 29; one officer hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries
• Santa Ana, CA – two officers hit in the head by flying objects, possibly fireworks, on May31; both hospitalized
• St. Louis, MO – End of Watch June 2 – Retired police Captain David Dorn was killed by a gunshot fired by a looter, as he was checking on a store owned by a friend. Four other officers were shot on the same day when an unknown shooter took random shots at a police line; wounds were not considered life-threatening.
• Washington, D.C. – approximately 50 agents and 11 police officers injured by bricks, bottles and Molotov cocktails on May 31. Most injuries minor, but one police officer will require surgery for broken leg.
• Wichita, KS – three officers hit by rocks, bottles and cinder blocks; treated and released

Hockeymom June 25, 2020

Here is the investigation into Mr.Green’s death. Deputies pulled up to Green in a parked pick up truck. He got agitated and pulled a knife. He got out and threatened police. They fired their taser and it did not stop him. He rushed at them further and they shot. All officers were put in paid administrative leave until the investigation was over. They found that use of force was needed.
When someone comes at you already agitated, with a deadly weapon and rushed you with that weapon after a taser has been deployed, what do you expect. Get out with your hands up and comply.
Now as far as the woman running. Why would she agree to defund the police? Cops are NOT hunting down and targeting those in Gifford. There is PROOF of major criminal activity.
Just the other day you wrote about a guy shooting into the ground, a CONVICTED FELON who is not supposed to have a gun in the first place.
People talk about BLM organization in their campaign, yet the BLM doesn’t do anything about Black on black crime. Its only when a white officer is the one responsible for the death of a black person.
Now Alteria Woods, that was also investigated that her career criminal boyfriend and his paternal family were all career criminals. They proved that Coffee III shot at officers and he used miss Woods for protection. Hoe is that the officers faults. when they are shot upon with multiple guns are they supposed to stand there and do nothing. Sadly a pregnant young lady was killed but that his her boyfriends fault. Not that of the officers.
Vero news you need to add facts when candidates make their statements.

Deborah Cooney July 21, 2020

As I have informed Ray McNulty on numerous occasions, I have NOT closed out the Republican primary. Florida statutes did that. However, anyone can vote in the primary by registering as a Republican. Please be more accurate in your reporting. Thanks.

Please view my entire email to Ray McNulty here:
https://sheriffdeb.law.blog/2020/07/22/email-to-ray-mcnulty-6-12-2020/

Leave a Comment