Pubdate: Tue, 30 Jan 2007
Source: Florida Times-Union (FL)
Copyright: 2007 The Florida Times-Union
Author: David Hunt, The Times-Union


Sheriff Say His Officers' Methods Are Working, But Will Look Into Incidents

By David Hunt, The Times-Union

After police shot to death two men in eight days during separate 
undercover drug operations, Jacksonville's chief prosecutor said he 
questions the value of the stings.

"If we're just selling drugs to addicts, I don't know what we're 
accomplishing," State Attorney Harry Shorstein said. "This could wind 
up being the tragic death of one kid -- arguably a bad kid -- and a 
gentleman who had the right to protect his property."

Police say Woods, described by family as a college hopeful who worked 
at two community centers, was shot dead trying to rob an undercover 
narcotics officer during a Jan. 20 drug sting at Sable Palms 
Apartments on Emerson Street. Singletary was killed Saturday -- the 
day of Woods' funeral -- after confronting undercover officers that 
he apparently confused for drug dealers doing their business outside his home.

Sheriff John Rutherford defended the undercover methods, saying 
police are trying to protect neighborhoods from drug activity. 
Saturday's sting, which posed undercover officers as drug dealers, 
netted five arrests, he said. Full details of the bookings were not 
available Sunday.

Rutherford said he's ready to rethink any investigative weaknesses 
that surface during the probe of the shooting.

"The tactics we developed are based on years of police experience," 
he said. "Even if the officers followed procedure, we'll look at 
this. We're always looking for better ways and safer ways to do our jobs."

Questions Remain

On Sunday, police said details of Saturday's shooting remain unclear. 
Detectives Donald Maynard and James Narcisse have been placed on 
administrative leave pending the investigation, authorities said.

Micheal Edwards, director of investigations and homeland security, 
said it was too early to tell if the plainclothes officers identified 
themselves as police before the shooting started.

Also, there are varying accounts of how it started. Witnesses and 
some police accounts indicate Singletary thought the officers were 
actual drug dealers and that he was trying to remove them from his 
property with the assistance of a .38 caliber handgun.

Some of Singletary's gunshots hit a tree in the yard, according to 
police, but none of the officers were hit.

Police said Singletary was shot at least once before going to his 
backyard, where police shot him again after ordering him to drop his weapon.

Singletary, whom witnesses initially misidentified as Isaac Evans, is 
a man people in the neighborhood off Philips Highway know simply as 
"Pops." He stayed outside most days, sitting in a lawn chair or, if 
it rained, passing the time inside his dark blue Ford F-150 that 
remained parked in the driveway Sunday.

Singletary had a reputation in the neighborhood for chasing drug 
dealers off his lawn, family and neighbors said.

"I never would have thought he would have gotten shot by a police 
officer," said niece Sheree Bea. "I thought if he ever got shot it 
would have been in a confrontation with a drug dealer."

Family members said Singletary was a retired maintenance man from 
Winter Park who moved to Jacksonville in the 1980s to take care of 
his ailing mother and sister. On Feb. 15, he would have turned 81.

He loved to garden, family and neighbors said. His collard and 
mustard greens swayed in the breeze yesterday as officers showed up 
with metal detectors and note pads to continue investigating.

Gary Evans, Singletary's nephew, said the police presence didn't make 
him feel any better.

"It's upsetting because they're the reason my uncle isn't here 
anymore," Evans said.

Growing Tension

Singletary and Woods both are black. In light of the shootings, 
Mikail Muhammad, local chair of the New Black Panther Party, said 
he's calling on his national leaders to help protest the Jacksonville police.

"Do we have not a right to come out on our own property?" he said. 
"Whether we have a weapon or not, police all over America are killing 
us. What are we supposed to do?"

Rutherford said his officers are trying to protect communities from 
drug dealers that plague them.

"We do these things to try to drive drugs out of the community," he said.

Edwards said the officers involved in both incidents are fortunate to be alive.

"It's a very dangerous job. We understand there is a segment of the 
community that doesn't agree with everything we do, but our goal is 
to make Jacksonville the safest community it can be," Edwards said.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman