TAMPA, Fla. – Tampa community leaders and sheriff’s officials pleaded Friday with the public to keep any protests peaceful following a deputy’s fatal shooting of an unarmed black man earlier in the week.
Five arrests were made Thursday as groups of people damaged cars, threw trash and lit fires over Tuesday’s shooting death of 22-year-old Levonia Riggins.
Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee met Friday with the African-American community about the shooting, agency spokeswoman Col. Donna Lusczynski said at a news conference. She expressed condolences to Levonia’s family and friends. Authorities said the shooting occurred after a sheriff’s SWAT team arrived Tuesday at the home where Riggins lived. They had a search warrant because deputies said an undercover officer had bought marijuana from Riggins on two occasions in the summer – and because deputies had gone to the home a year prior and found guns. Riggins, a convicted felon, said at the time that he didn’t touch the weapons.
Authorities said several people left the house when officers arrived, but Riggins didn’t. A deputy broke through a window and found Riggins in a bed.
“Mr. Riggins then jumped up and moved his hands toward his waistband,” Lusczynski said. The spokeswoman said deputy Caleb Johnson fired his weapon once and Riggins was killed in what she called a “split second” decision by the deputy. No firearm was found in the home.
The deputy’s race wasn’t immediately disclosed. The Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office is investigating, as is a sheriff’s internal team.
Thomas Scott, a former city councilor and county commissioner, also spoke at the news conference and encouraged people to “remain calm.”
“We want to ensure the community that we’re meeting with the sheriff and ensuring there is transparency, and thus far there’s been a lot of openness,” he said.