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It takes years to investigate police-involved shootings in Jacksonville

Cases back to 2016 remain open

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It may take years to close the investigations into the two police-involved shooting deaths in Jacksonville this month.

These incidents are investigated first by the State Attorney’s Office to see if the shooting was justified. Then the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reviews the shooting to see if proper procedures were followed.

While most officer-involved shootings in most jurisdictions are investigated by an outside agency, the JSO investigates its own. News4Jax found open cases going back three years.

In the last 10 days, two more cases were added to the backlog.

March 5: Antonio Valentine, 32, was shot inside a pickup truck in a grocery store parking lot on Arlington Road. Police say he refused to get out and tasering had no effect on him. Six officers opened fire on him when police said he grabbed a gun.
March 14: Jerry Marrero, 38, was shot inside a Gate station convenience store on Emerson Street. Police said the man started to comply with a command to get on the floor but then retrieved a knife and started moving toward an officer.

These were the only two shootings by Jacksonville officers so far this year. Last year there were five people shot by officers in Duval County and four of them resulted in a person’s death.

Officers are put on paid leave immediately after a shooting, but are usually back at work quickly.
The officer who fired the shots that killed Marrero on Thursday has been through this before. Officer Richard Santoro, a 21-year veteran of JSO, was involved in two previous shootings.

Investigations into those incidents, including a 2010 shooting in Baymeadows in which Santoro and four other officers killed a suspected bank robber who was trying to carjack a woman, have been concluded, but the State Attorney’s Office said 15 other police-involved shootings are still under investigation, along with four other cases where an officer fired but did not hit anyone.

The State Attorney’s Office sends its own investigators to shooting scenes and they do not represent the officers involved. If another crime is committed, that is handled in a separate investigation. Officers cannot be offered immunity for testimony.

READ MORE: SAO's officer-involved incident policies and procedures

After all materials and evidence are in place, the office has 45 days to issue a draft report but the final decision on whether or not a shooting was justified and whether any charges would result comes from the state attorney.

After that investigation is completed, the Sheriff’s Office begins its review.

The Sheriff’s Office portion of the process by the Response to Resistance Board used to be very open, but the board reviews were ordered closed by the courts. JSO records show cases pending back to 2016.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.