Jeremy's Notebook

African-American Leaders Decry Shooting, ECSO Response

August 2, 2013

middleton press conferenceA few blocks away from the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, a collective of African-American community organizations and leaders gathered today at Englewood Baptist Church to express concerns in the wake of last week’s shooting, in which officers rained a shower of gunfire upon 60-year-old Roy Middleton in his own driveway.

“Even if you are out hunting a deer, you wouldn’t shoot 17 times,” said Ellison Bennett, of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. “—we told him to comply and he didn’t, so it’s hunting season.”

Ellison reiterated the collective’s sentiment, saying he was “sick and tired of the bigotry and the racism and hatred shown toward our brothers and sisters.” The incident was described as “attempted murder,” and calls were made for the involved officers—Deputy Jeremiah Meeks and Sergeant Matt White—to be relieved from duty.

A week ago, sheriff officers responded to an early morning call regarding a possible carjacking. When they encountered Middleton—who it turns out was looking for a cigarette in his car parked in his driveway—the officers pocked the house and car with bullet holes, and sent the victim to the hospital with two gunshot wounds to the leg.

During a press conference Monday, Sheriff David Morgan attributed the number of shots—which he places at 15—to “officer anxiety” and said Middleton had not responded to commands and had “lunged” at officers. The sheriff also noted the high call-volume the ECSO responds to in the Warrington area, and later made statements during a media interview that the incident had garnered national attention because Middleton is black.

Such statements—in addition to describing Middleton as both victim and suspect—are not playing well in the African-American community. Civil Rights-icon H.K. Matthews said today that the sheriff is “totally insensitive to what’s happening in our community,” and noted a “cowboy-mentality, where you shoot first and ask questions later.” Bennett connected the mentality to the Trayvon Martin incident—“you think Trayvon would have been murdered if he’d been a white kid with a hoodie on going through that neighborhood?”—and contended that the number of shots pointed toward an “intent to kill.”

“Sheriff Morgan, you insult our intelligence to refer to this brother as a suspect,” said Mustafaa Muhammad, of the Nation of Islam, addressing the sheriff via a television camera. “He could have died. A mother could have lost her son. We could have been here under different circumstances.”

Members of the African-American collective said they didn’t think the officers would have responded in such a way if Middleton was white. They painted the incident as a piece of a larger puzzle.

“We have to get to the root of the problem,” Muhammad said, alluding to the ECSO’s assertion that the officers felt threatened. “When you see a black man or African-American, what makes you feel uncomfortable—that you feel threatened, that you shoot him 17 times?”

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  • Cal Robinson August 8, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    “I sympathize with the dangers law officers face in their work but their training should enable them to remain calm and deliberate, avoiding such responses as occurred here.”

    Race issues aside, Reverend, I think this is also one of the core issues.

    What kind of training to deputies receive? Do they train in an environment that simulates real life situations routinely or do they go to the range once or twice a year and fire bullets at a target that doesn’t move?

    The firing of 17 bullets into a car doesn’t strike me as the actions of a well-trained force, but rather how a jumpy deputy with little to no training would respond.

    If they don’t train constantly their reflexes will not react properly in a situation. It needs to become second nature to take in the situation and not get tunnel vision to the point where they miss the big picture of the situation and react to something that isn’t there.

  • George Hawthorne August 8, 2013 at 7:14 am

    Rev. Brown,

    I agree with your point of needing a diverse group of people engaged in the discussion. However, until we begin to have an open, transparent and frank dialog about the socio-economic conditions in Escambia County that have created the environment for a black male to be profiled as a “suspect” in his own yard/car and then shot after a confrontation, such incidents will continue.

    For far too long in Pensacola, as a community, we have not wanted to have these discussions because they do bring up painful memories of the past and force us to deal with the harsh realities of our current “state of race relations” in the Escambia County.

    We can no longer be torn apart as Americans because more than ever we are under assault from forces around the globe that and need to join together as Americans for our own survival. We can’t let the underlying forces that would serve to divide us along racial lines continue to fester because of lack of understanding and fear of dialog about the issues, disparities and perceptions of growing up as an African-American in Escambia County.

    It is a responsibility of all citizens to gain a sense of understanding of the inequities and disparities that are truly “real” and to then take steps to solve these disparities.

    I don’t need to tell you about the lives of our brave young men and women from Escambia County that are fighting for our freedoms across the globe. However, many of these same men and women are not afforded the same equality of the freedoms that they fight for abroad, here at home in Escambia County.

    Dr. Martin Luther King said, ” Our lives begin to end when we stop talking about things that matter.”

  • Rev. Tom Brown August 8, 2013 at 5:08 am

    It is regrettable that you present this in headline and content as only an African-American issue. It is an American issue. There were white persons at the meeting described and there are a lot of us who are very concerned about this incident and others like it. Injustice toward anyone, and consistent maltreatment of minority persons through profiling,etc., eventually leads to injustice toward all. I sympathize with the dangers law officers face in their work but their training should enable them to remain calm and deliberate, avoiding such responses as occurred here.

  • joe August 5, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    I believe Mr. Ramsey is correct with the assertion about race profiteers and Marlette’s cartoon displayed that recently regarding Jesse Jackson. I do not, however , believe the local activists have the same motives as Jackson, Sharpton and the other hooligans wishing to profit from “white” men’s mistakes and others misfortunes. That said, a person making an assertion that the shooting wouldn’t have happened had it been a white person doesn’t make sense to me, though the sheriff’s office may be a little too trigger happy or “officer anxiety ” as Mr. Morgan so stupidly said, due to the fact that the area has an overwhelmingly high percentage of crime committed by black people.
    Mr. Morgan’s office and officers should be held accountable because they made mistakes, regardless of skin color, and most of the readers of this blog wouldn’t want those two deputies responding to any call, emergency or not.
    Also, Jeeperman is probably accurate in that self-regulating bodies protect those they are regulating as they are the ones who provide their funding so don’t expect much from the FDLE on this incident, thought the viralness of facebook and internet sites makes it harder for them to ignore.

    About Rick’s article last week… I think he got it wrong. We are not Trayvon and the community shouldn’t hang it’s hat on that young man’s name. young Mr. Martin made mistakes and Zimmerman made mistakes which cost Mr. Martin his life and Zimmerman the opportunity to peacefully live his life.

  • jim Ramsey August 5, 2013 at 10:09 am


    Ok then. Let’s toss aside all of these agencies who are charged with “regulating”. What are we left with? You complaining about lack of regulation?

  • jeeperman August 4, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Did it ever occur to you that the FDLE is just like the state medical board, state bar, state ethics board, etc. etc.
    All created by our lawmakers to protect the ones they are to “regulate” on our behalf.
    All members of the appropriate boards have to do something pretty blatant to be reprimanded by them.
    If you like being a sheeple, good for you.

  • jim Ramsey August 3, 2013 at 9:04 am

    I see the race profiteers are tossing out the “If he were white” scenarios making everything about race. They completely ignore the fact that the deputies were responding to a high crime area and that the person who called it in characterized it as an attempted auto theft. The race profiteers need to focus their efforts on bringing about change in the black community and neighborhoods to rid them of crime. Deputies were called to respond to a high crime neighborhood that is predominately black because a man who happens to be black is rummaging around the floorboard of a car at 3 am. None of us really know what transpired on the scene and yet without all of the necessary facts, race profiteers spring into action ready to condemn the deputies by claiming bigotry, hatred, and racism without the benefit knowing any of them personally.

    Jeeperman- Did it ever occur to you that FDLE gets it right 99.9% of the time or are you a conspiracy theorist who wants to believe that local police agencies hold sway over a state agency? If you have any proof that FDLE does kangaroo court investigations then why don’t you enlighten us?

  • Citizen August 2, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    You know, what no one seems to take into consideration in any situation like this in the middle of the night in a high crime area is what all the Officers have to think about as they are responding, when they arrive, when they confront a person [in this case a suspected car thief], what the person does or doesn’t do to commands given and whether to shoot or not when the suspected suspect makes any movements. If you really get down to it, what would you do in your own yard under similar circumstances? Please take into account that you wouldn’t know the person either. The amount of rounds fired doesn’t really mean a lot to me. You nor I have no idea what the suspect was still doing as the shots were fired. He may have been moving toward the officers which may have been taken as a continue threat. It may have appeared that he continued to reach in the vehicle for something or appeared to have been doing so. There are so many unanswered questions that neither of us have. So please, don’t be too quick to judge unless you’ve walked in the shoes on an LEO that doesn’t have a week or so to figure out what they should have done. I don’t recall seeing all of this attention when OJ got found not guilty either.

  • jeeperman August 2, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    We will only hear what the Sheriff wants us to hear.
    The FDLE will do their kangaroo court “investigation” and then rule that the shooting was justified.
    They always do, at least 99.9% of the time.

    Did they also discuss the un-willingness of the “community” to alert the police to possible suspects?