Report by IN reporter Sean Boone
The incident last Saturday morning that led to the death of 17-year-old Victor Steen has undoubtedly been the talk of Pensacola–and with good reason.
The manner in which Pensacola Policeman Jerald Ard attempted to subdue the young black male on his bicycle with a Tazer has bewildered local law enforcement and many in the downtown and Brownsville communities.
But many who were at the scene and saw Ard’s police vehicle tragically kill the teenager are also perplexed by how the situation was handled in its wake.
Some witnesses who were outside of Sluggo’s tell IN the young man was not properly tended to and laid under the vehicle for hours before finally being removed.
“I don’t know why he was left under there so long,” says witness Sharon Kirby, 24. “I don’t know why there wasn’t an ambulance there sooner.”
According to Pensacola Police Department Assistant Chief Chip Simmons the first thing Ard did after hitting Steen was radio for medical assistance.
But Kirby says the medical help arrived long after other officers were on scene and more or less just verified that Steen had been killed.
“It wasn’t like a 10-minute frame (when the medical help arrived). When they finally got there, they looked at the guy and left.”
Kirby says she was there for more than two hours giving a report to law enforcement; all while the dead man’s body laid under the police vehicle.
The incident report and video footage from the dashboard of the vehicle have not yet been released due to an ongoing investigation from the Department of Law Enforcement and the Florida Highway Patrol, according to Simmons.
The FDLE has said the investigation could take weeks to complete.
Some concerned citizens aren’t willing to wait that long before taking action.
The End of the Line Vegan Cafe is holding a meeting today at 5 p.m. to discuss further action on the matter. Many witnesses from Sluggo’s are expected to attend.
Many are concerned the incident may be “swept under the rug” if the community does not speak out against how Pensacola Police handled the situation.
“I’m really sickened and sad,” says Emily, a Sluggo’s witness. “There were a lot of issues to think about. Some people are saying it was totally on purpose, that these racist cops are just running black people down. I think there was some negligence for sure, some excessive force.
“I mean, he tried to tase a guy on a moving vehicle, from a moving vehicle.”
Emily says she’s not only concerned with how things were handled, but also that many of the black community that witnessed it will not come forward.
“The black people milling around the scene, just neighborhood people, were telling witnesses not to talk to cops,” she says. “They’re afraid of cops. Of course that kid fled.
“And, like, if it had happened two blocks over, I wonder what would’ve happened? It just coincidentally occurred right in front of a group of liberal, cop-hating kids at Sluggo’s.”
Florida Southern Christian Leadership Conference Chairman Art Rocker Sr. spoke on behalf of Steen’s family at a press conference yesterday at a sisters home, on North J Street.
He told the IN he couldn’t comment on how the incident was handled by law enforcement until his group has completed an investigation of the Pensacola Police Department.
A press release from the SCLC says it plans to visit the PPD tomorrow and expects to hold a rally at city hall and at the state capitol in Tallahassee in the near future.
“Well hopefully I will be able to comment tomorrow,” says Rocker.