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Sheriff Bristles At State Attorney's Criticism Of Police Shootings

Feud To End When Shorstein Leaves Office

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The feud between Jacksonville's sheriff and its state attorney bubbled over again Wednesday when John Rutherford got a letter from Harry Shorstein questioning why police had to fatally shoot a mentally ill man.

Officers who were called to assist a mental health worker checking on the welfare of a client shot and killed the man, 30-year-old Sierra White.

Police said White was threatening them with knives outside his Arlington apartment.

In a letter to the sheriff, Shorstein said: "The shooting of White was legally justified ... but many questions exist as to whether or not this severely mentally ill, non-criminal had to die.

"It is difficult to understand why several officers armed with expandable batons, which would seem to be perfect weapons to strike the hands and or knives and even break his hands if necessary, were unable to diffuse the situation or avoid killing this very sick person," Shorstein wrote.

Rutherford said he found the letter "offensive."

"Those officers did everything properly. To suggest that they did anything that wasn't out of the best of training or the best of intentions was just wrong," Rutherford told Channel 4's Dan Leveton on Thursday.

In his letter, the state attorney also brought up January 2007's police-involved shooting of another mentally ill man --Harry Lamar Shuler -- who was holding his family hostage inside their northwest Jacksonville home. He cited both cases in saying that officers need more training in dealing with those types of situations.

"I understand and appreciate the fact that failing to use deadly force against the two mental patients would have created some risk of danger to the officers. But, isn't that the case when every military person is in hostile territory, every police officer jumps in the water to save a child or every firefighter enters a burning building? Isn't that what we do?"

The sheriff said that even suggesting his officers did anything wrong is offensive.

"I don't see him out there with these officers trying to take down people with guns and knives," Rutherford said. "For him to sit back and from the comfort of his office, pen a letter like that, is just offensive."

The public feud between the two men should end soon. Shorstein did not seek re-election and his term will end in December. Rutherford actively campaigned against Shorstein's chief assistant, Jay Plotkin, in the August primary, and supported Angelia Corey, who won in a landslide.

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