By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Citing a public records exemption requiring a good faith belief that an arrest will be made soon, Broward’s Medical Examiner is withholding autopsy records about a black man who was repeatedly shot with Tasers by Coconut Creek Police officers.
City police officials have released few details about the events preceding the Feb. 22 shooting of Calvon “Andre” Reid in the Andros Isle section of the Wynmoor retirement community. Eyewitnesses, however, have said that police fired at Reid four times, striking him at least twice in the chest with wires tethered to the high-voltage stun guns. Reid died two days later.
Four Coconut Creek officers are under scrutiny amid what police have said are parallel criminal and internal investigations. An attorney for the Broward Police Benevolent Association represents those officers –Sgt. David Freeman, Sgt. Darren Karp and officers Thomas Eisenring and Daniel Rush. No one else has been implicated publicly in Reid’s death.
Freeman, Eisenring and Rush were temporarily taken off street duty and given other assignments, city officials said. Karp, however, has not been reassigned.
Broward Medical Examiner Dr. Craig Mallak asserted the public records exemption in Florida Statute 119.071(2) in denying a request for access to the Reid autopsy records by FloridaBulldog.org. Mallak did not elaborate.
Broward County PBA President Jeff Marano was skeptical of the idea that any of the Coconut Creek officers are in jeopardy of arrest, saying he does not believe their Taser shots contributed to Reid’s death.
“I strongly doubt that they are looking at the officers involved in the Tasering as being related to the cause of death,” Marano said. “I don’t think (Reid) was the healthiest individual.”
The medical examiner’s refusal to make public autopsy records about an apparent homicide at the hands of police further clouds an investigation already tainted by extreme secrecy. For example, Coconut Creek did not disclose that city officers had discharged their Tasers, or that an in-custody death had occurred, until after Floridabulldog.org reported the story on Feb. 27.
Eyewitnesses John Arendale and his fiancé, Bonnie Eshleman, contacted the nonprofit news organization to inquire why a story about the shooting and death had not appeared on television or in newspapers. The pair, with a unique view of events from their apartment, was disturbed about what they had seen.
In interviews, they described hearing or seeing officers fire four Taser shots at Reid in two volleys. After the first volley, about five policemen “were around and on top of the man” who yelled out “Baby! They are going to kill me” and “I can’t breathe,” they said.
Police did not interview Arendale or Eshelman until the day FloridaBulldog.org published their account of what happened – five days after the shooting.
Coconut Creek’s only public statement about the matter was March 5 at a press conference by then-Police Chief Michael Mann scheduled as a result of intense media interest in the case. It featured an unusual public denial of a police whitewash.
“There is no cover-up,” Mann told reporters, as his boss, the city manager, stood by. Mann was forced out as chief less than a week later.
At the press conference, Mann said Margate paramedics summoned police after finding Reid in a parking lot suffering from “numerous cuts on his hands, arms and chest” and wearing torn and bloodstained clothing about 1:08 a.m. on Feb. 22. The paramedics had arrived following a 911 call.
Chief Mann described Reid, a 39-year-old meat salesman, as aggressive toward both paramedics and police. His statements appeared to back his officers’ actions.
“The officers attempted to detain Mr. Reid to determine what happened. As the officers approached Mr. Reid, he exhibited threatening behavior and appeared to be hallucinating,” Mann said. “Taser use became necessary for the officers’ safety as well as for Mr. Reid’s own safety.”
Mann declined to release any additional information. Coconut Creek Police since have provided no further details about what happened.
CBSMiami, however, reported last week that it obtained Coconut Creek police training records showing that three of the four officers now under investigation were not properly certified and should not have been carrying Tasers on the day of the incident.
City training records also show that about 80 other Coconut Creek officers, including Mann, were not properly certified to use Tasers that day. Two days after Reid’s death, the police department began catch-up training sessions to bring its officers, and Mann, into compliance with a state law requiring annual recertification in the use of dart-firing stun guns, the records show.