Pubdate: Fri, 15 Sep 2000
Source: Florida Times-Union (FL)
Copyright: The Florida Times-Union 2000
Author: Mark Reynolds and Jim Schoettler


State Attorney Harry Shorstein said yesterday the fatal shooting of an
unarmed drug dealer in a botched sting last month in Jacksonville was
"negligent and unnecessary" but not flagrant enough to warrant criminal
prosecution against the federal agent who shot the man.

In statements that later provoked a sharp rebuttal from the Jacksonville
Sheriff's Office, Shorstein also called the Aug. 14 sting "poorly planned
and poorly executed."

But, Shorstein said, "under Florida law, the killing of Curt Ferryman was
excusable homicide."

Shorstein said 30-year-old Christopher Sean Martin of the Drug Enforcement
Administration accidentally shot Ferryman when the agent knocked on the
window of a parked vehicle occupied by the 24-year-old Ferryman.

Speaking at a mid-afternoon news conference, Shorstein quoted a legal
definition to explain how the agent was "negligent" but not negligent enough
to be prosecuted on a charge of manslaughter. He noted that Martin was a
"relatively junior" member in a multi-agency operation with the oversight of

Shorstein, who has never charged a law enforcement officer in a shooting,
said he has never been more critical of a fatal shooting involving law
enforcement during his nine years as state attorney.

While they prompted only a limited response from the DEA, Shorstein's
comments puzzled Jacksonville police.

"I did not expect criticism of the plan because there were no apparent flaws
. . . that I saw," Jacksonville Sheriff Nat Glover said. "The criticism of
the plan in my mind is unfounded."

But Shorstein said one reason for the shooting in the 3800 block of Imeson
Road was poor planning. He referred to the plan as "complex" with "extremely
comprehensive resources . . . for a relatively simple, non-violent" crime.

Shorstein said the written plan was for all three officers in a Chevrolet
Tahoe to make the arrest after the marijuana, sold for $30,000 by Ferryman,
was placed in the trunk of another car. The arrest was supposed to occur
outside the car.

But Shorstein said Ferryman got inside that car and was counting the money
when detectives gave the signal to make the arrest.

Martin was the only one who approached the car to arrest Ferryman. The
driver of the Tahoe didn't leave the vehicle immediately, and the 6-foot-6
agent in the back seat had trouble getting out, Shorstein said.

He said the hammer on Martin's 9mm SigSauer semiautomatic pistol was
"wrongly" cocked, which reduced the amount of force needed to fire the

Shorstein said Martin gave an "oral command" as he ran to the vehicle and
tried to get Ferryman's attention by rapping on the window.

The prosecutor said Martin's weapon should not have been pointed toward
people in the car and his finger should not have been on the trigger.

"Accidentally," Shorstein said, "Agent Martin's weapon fired, fatally
wounding the suspect.

"Agent Martin's actions were wrong and contrary to his training," Shorstein

However, the state attorney said his own recounting of the incident does not
jibe with the statement made by Martin during an interview that came about
48 hours after the shooting occurred.

Martin said in his statement that he fired his weapon intentionally in

But on an audio tape recorded inside the vehicle, Martin was asked, "Why did
you shoot him, man?"

"I didn't mean it," is the reply, an answer prosecutors attributed to

Shorstein attributed the discrepancy to Martin being under stress.

DEA spokesman Brent Eaton declined to answer questions about the case.

He said Martin will remain off the street until the DEA's own inquiry, an
investigation that will consider policy and training issues, is complete.

"We are always saddened when anyone is killed or injured during a DEA
operation," Eaton said, reading a printed press release. "This tragic
incident is no exception."

Meanwhile, Glover said he found no problems with the plan after his review
of the incident, and he defended his officers and the other police agents.

He said the amount of manpower, criticized by Shorstein as too much, was
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