The newly-formed Coalition for Justice of Northwest Florida sent a letter on Monday, Aug. 18, to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice requesting the agency reopen its investigation of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office.
The group’s chairman, Gerri Bell, cited the July 27 shooting of Roy Middleton in his driveway and the August 4 shooting of two dogs inside of their owners’ home as a “pattern of practice of excessive use of force related to civil rights violations” in Escambia County.
In January 2009, DOJ launched an investigation into the sheriff’s office and the county jail over allegations of excessive force and other abuses under the administrations of Ron McNesby and Jim Lowman. The DOJ issued on Sept. 4, 2012 a Remedial Measures and Technical Assistance report. While DOJ issued no findings of abuse, the agency did leave the option of reopening the case “should new evidence of a pattern or practice of constitutional violations emerge.”
According to Bell, the coalition was formed “to respond to the outright disregard and denial of rights, ECSO brutality, and other wrongs, violating civil and human rights of others in our community.”
The letter stated, “Our research disclosed a long standing pattern of abuse and blatant disregard by those with the authority to end such behaviors.”
The group believes that the DOJ’s warnings in the September 2012 report “have fallen on deaf ears” and accused Sheriff David Morgan of “strong arming the truth to hide abusive patterns.”
The Coalition for Justice of Northwest Florida will hold a press conference on Friday, Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. Movement for Change office located at 1603 N. Davis Highway.
They will be discussing this letter and responding to the recent cases involving Escambia County deputies who were involved with the shooting of Roy Middleton and the shooting involving the dogs of Christina Moses and Travis Nicholas. Plus, the CFJNWF will also be responding to comments made by Escambia County Sheriff David Morgan at recent press conferences and a Rotary event.