GRAND JURY OF BAY COUNTY
SPRING TERM, 2007
We, the Grand Jury of Bay County, Florida, Spring Term, 2007, having heard testimony and considered evidence presented, find that Deputy Steve Retherford, Bay County Sheriff’s Office, was justified in the use of deadly force on October 11, 2006.
On that date, after six p.m., officers from the Bay County Sheriff’s Office were assisting the officers of the Panama City Police Department in investigating the ongoing problem of illegal drug sales in the PanaVilla/Macedonia housing complex. It was a dark, hazy night with amber lighting provided by apartment lights and a few street lights. Officers of the Panama City Police Department had made drug purchases from two male subjects and requested the assistance of the Sheriff’s Special Investigations Unit. Lt. Faith Bell, Deputy Steve Retherford, and other deputies arrived on the scene to look for the two described subjects. When one of the subjects saw the officers–who had badges and other indicia of lawful authority displayed–he ran. Officers, including Lt. Bell, pursued the man on foot. The pursuit moved through a breezeway, past children and other residents. Lt. Bell closed to within eight to ten feet of the subject when he pointed the gun in her direction and fired. Lt. Bell stopped to draw her weapon and the subject fired again. Lt. Bell slowed to take protective cover.
At the same time, Deputy Retherford took up a flanking position and witnessed the gunfire. He and other officers identified themselves by shouting, “Sheriff’s Office” and “police officer.” The subject was armed and had an unknown quantity of ammunition. He continued to present a real and continuing threat to the officers and to the children and others in the complex at the time. When the subject turned and aimed at Deputy Retherford, the Deputy fired two shots which hit the subject. The subject went to the ground and an object flew from his person.
Lt. Bell, believing that the object was the firearm, ran to the subject and found that he had been shot. The object that Lt. Bell found was a cell phone. The subject’s firearm was found nearby.
Use, by a law enforcement officer, of any force is justified if he reasonably believes such force is necessary to defend himself or another from bodily harm while making an arrest. A law enforcement officer is also justified in using whatever force is necessary to stop a felon fleeing from arrest when the officer reasonably believes that the fleeing felon presents a threat of death or serious physical harm to the officer or others.
Considering all of the circumstances which surrounded Deputy Retherford at the time, we find that the use of deadly force was in an effort to protect fellow law enforcement officers and the citizens present at the time. The subject had fired at one officer and pointed his weapon at another. He continued to constitute a threat. Deputy Retherford’s actions were not only legally justified; but necessary and proper.
Presented this 21st day of February, 2007, by the Grand Jury of Bay County, Florida, Spring Term, 2007.
I have duly advised the Grand Jury as to the law in this issue.
Steve Meadows, State Attorney
Joe Grammer, Deputy Chief Assistant State Attorney
Mark Graham, Bay County Chief Assistant State Attorney