JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The 22-year-old man shot by a police officer Sunday afternoon after a head-on crash with the officer's cruiser has died, the man's father said Monday.
Vernell Bing Jr. was shot once in the side of the head after leading officers on 3.7-mile high-speed chase that ended when it appeared he intentionally struck the officer's cruiser on a Springfield street, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
JSO Chief Chris Butler said no gun was found on Bing or in his car, a fact that has a city councilman and both the NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Conference calling for answers.
Butler said Bing was in a red Chevrolet Camaro that was wanted in connection with an April shootout that was spotted Sunday afternoon in Northwest Jacksonville. After the collision, the Camaro's metrics showed it was going 53 mph and not braking when it struck Officer Tyler Landreville's oncoming cruiser on 9th Street.
Landreville's cruiser was disabled and Bing's car left the road and struck a building. Butler said Landreville got out of his car and walked toward the Camaro without pulling his weapon and ordering the man, who was out of his car, to surrender. Butler said something caused Landreville to pull his gun and fire five times, one bullet striking Bing.
“For some reason, when the suspect exits from his car, goes to leave, something ... caused police Officer Landreville to unholster his weapon and shoot at the suspect multiple times," Butler said.
The JSO is not allowed to interview Landreville until the State Attorney's Office completes its investigation to see if the shooting was justified. Police are asking witnesses of the shooting to call 904-630-0500.
Butler acknowledged reports circulating in the community that Bing was shot five times or in the back as he was running away, but the facts show Bing was shot once in the side of his head.
"We want exactly what the community wants; we want a thorough investigation," Butler said. "With your help, we can make sure any witnesses that might be out there come forward and give us that information."
Landreville is a seven-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office. Butler said this was his first officer-involved shooting.
According to JSO records, Landreville was involved in a traffic crash in April 2014.
"We investigate all of our officer-involved shootings," Butler said. "There will be an administrative process that takes place later, with the Response to Resistance Board."
Bing has a previous history with police, having been arrested for car theft, resisting arrest, burglary, trespassing, falsifying his identity and driving without a license.
In the wake of the seventh police-involved shooting of the year, several civil rights leaders have renewed their call for body cameras. Butler said Sheriff Mike Williams is in favor of body cameras but wants to ensure there is adequate funding and administration in place before using them.
Events leading up to the shooting
Police said Landreville spotted the Camaro wanted in an April shooting on Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. He called for assistance, and the officers tried to stop the vehicle. The vehicle continued into the Moncrief area at a high rate of speed, then drove into Springfield, police said.
The Camaro reached Ionia Street when Landreville was traveling on Liberty Street. The man turned west on 9th Street and the officer turned east onto 9th. The man hit the officer head on, disabling the cruiser, police said.
The man's car went into a building. That's when Landreville got out of the cruiser and approached him.
Bing's injuries were said to be life-threatening.
Landreville was also taken to the hospital for injuries from the accident. He was treated and released.
A man who said he witnessed the shooting told News4Jax the officer the man was limping as he was trying to get away.
"(The officer) was no more than three or four feet away from him," Eric Coleman said. "He could have tackled the man instead of shooting him, but he chose to shoot this man.”
Coleman went on to say that once the suspect was hit and fell to the ground, the officer "shot him three or four more times."
Chief Butler reiterated that Bing was only hit by one bullet.
Standard police procedures
Landreville was placed on administrative leave, which is standard while police-involved shootings are investigated. And for now, he can only answer questions from the State Attorney's Office.
"Police officers can’t talk because it’s under investigation," News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said. "Usually when you have one side talking, when the public hears information coming from one side, you tend to side with those people because it’s the only information that you’re getting. And the fact that it’s quiet gives appearance they’re trying to hide something, but really it’s just standard procedure."
Smith says Landreville will meet with an advocate to compile a statement of events.
"That’s standard because it’s such a traumatic situation. There is so much going on with the officer, emotionally," Smith said. "They found that when officers gave statements immediately and then when they have chance to calm down, they remember things differently."
Smith, a retired Jacksonville officer, said he believes the Sheriff's Office is being transparent since it admitted it has not found a weapon on or near the suspect and it is calling on more witnesses to come forward.
A few witnesses have given News4Jax accounts that conflict with preliminary police findings.
"The sticking point is what happened once they got out of the car. That’s what’s they’re not sure about. That’s what the investigation is going to lead to," Smith said. "Anyone who studies crime scene investigations knows the least reliable information is witness information. Not that the public is trying to be deceptive, but they might not have seen things the way they think that they did."
Smith said all parties involved should trust the investigative process of the state attorney and Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.