As my Texas granddaddy would have said right about now, “It’s all over but the shoutin’.”
There was plenty in the recently published Palm Beach Post/NewsChannel Five investigation into PBSO shootings for Sheriff Ric Bradshaw to shout about.
In the last 15 years, one in four shootings were at unarmed individuals; unexpectedly large numbers of those being shot at were black; investigations into shootings were sometimes incomplete and haphazard, and deputies were almost always exonerated.
But speaking on Channel Five’s To The Point, Bradshaw rarely strayed from equanimity into irascibility.
“This has been a legitimate conversation,” he said of public reaction to the series.
That doesn’t mean he has embraced it. Painting a picture of unnecessary force at PBSO “is completely false,” he emphasized.
That includes the 2013 shooting of Dontrell Stephens. The bicyclist was shot and left paralyzed by a deputy who thought he saw a gun. Stephens was unarmed. Part of the shooting was caught on dashcam tape, part wasn’t.
Bradshaw’s take on the video: It didn’t catch what the deputy saw. “There were things he saw that alerted him to fear for his safety,” said Bradshaw.
That fierce defense of his deputies was also part of the Post/NewsChannel Five findings. The sheriff frequently visits the scene of a deputy-involved shooting and almost invariably tells the news media the deputy acted correctly, long before the results of any formal investigation are in.
Bradshaw countered that in the 45 minutes or so it takes him to get to the scene, investigators with both PBSO and the state attorney’s office typically already have evidence indicating whether it was a good shoot.
Anyway, he added, the media are also there, chomping at the bit for a statement.
“I am always careful to say this is only what we know now,” said Bradshaw, who points to Ferguson, Missouri as a prime example of what happens when the police give out absolutely no information. Riots followed the shooting of Michael Brown when it looked like the police had pulled “a shroud of secrecy” over the fatal incident, he said.
And there’s plenty yet to talk about. Bradshaw says he welcomes it: “We’re going to have the conversation,” he said, “on both sides.”