JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The state attorney’s office has ruled the fatal shooting of Vernell Bing Jr. last year by Officer Tyler Landreville of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office was justified.
Bing was shot once after he rammed his car into Landreville’s cruiser during a police chase, police said.
Bing was being chased because he was in a car involved in a previous shooting. After the crash at Ninth and Liberty streets, Bing, who was unarmed, got out of the car and Landreville ordered him to stop, firing his weapon five times and hitting Bing once in the head.
Bing’s family has been notified by authorities that the shooting was ruled justifiable.
“We were not surprised,” the family’s attorneys said.
When investigators first began looking into the shooting there were eyewitnesses who said the officer was behind Bing when he pulled the trigger.
“He shot him in the back, unarmed. (He) fell to the ground after the first shot. Once he falls to the ground, he continues to open fire on this man. It looks like he shot him in the head and in the back three or four more times,” witness Eric Coleman said in a social media post.
The official report released by the State’s Attorney Office contradicts Coleman's claim. The medical examiner's office ruled Bing was shot facing Landreville -- a report that matches the officer's account of events.
According to the report, Landreville told investigators that right after Bing crashed his car, he exited the vehicle and was told to stop. He said Bing turned and reached for waistband when he shot him.
The 38-page report released by the State Attorney's Office contains details into what police said led to the Bing’s shooting. It also contains dashcam video and hundreds of evidence photos.
In the State Attorney's Office's report, it says, "No one disputes that Officer Tyler Landreville shot and killed Bing." The report also states the shooting was "justified" based on the circumstances.
Daillo Sekou, community activist and president of the Black Commission, disagrees.
"It's unjustified," Sekou said. "I think that and I'm just a civilian, but it still seems that Bing could've been taken down without shooting him, without deadly force."
News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith said the case was never as cut and dried as it may have appeared, which is why it took more than a year to decide the shooting was justified.
Smith said an administration change may have also slowed down the investigation.
“You had (State Attorney) Melissa Nelson coming in last year with a new administration, so that, I’m sure, slowed down the process,” Smith said.
Nelson issued the following statement:
“We have conducted a thorough review of this shooting incident, and determined the shooting was justified under applicable Florida law.”
The president of the local police union released a statement, which reads in part, "We were very confident throughout this entire process that Officer Landreville would receive this ruling. We remain thankful that the officer was not seriously harmed while attempting to bring a violent suspect into custody.”
In June 2016, Sheriff Mike Williams asked the FBI to review the case.
The Bing family filed a civil rights wrongful death lawsuit last year against Landreville and Williams for excessive and deadly force. The city has already filed a motion to dismiss it. Now, a judge will decide the fate of the suit.
The Department of Justice is doing a separate investigation, but no report had been released. The Department of Justice declined to comment.
Because the outcome of this investigation comes on the heels of a similar case in St. Louis, where a white officer who was recently acquitted of killing a black man, police are on standby to handle any protests. That case has sparked violent protests and now Smith is advising people to read the official report and not do something rash.
“They just released information saying that Mr. Bing was shot from the front. He was not shot in the back. I think it’s important for everyone just to read to find out why they made this decision and not to react out in emotion," Smith said.