'Volatile' Jacksonville Shooting, With 42 Rounds, Still Being
Police say 2-year-old is still in critical condition
after five officers fired 42 rounds Friday at a carjacked vehicle.
March 28, 2010 - 12:45am
By Deirdre Conner
Florida Sun Times-Union
Questions lingered Saturday about why Jacksonville police officers fired
42 rounds at a commandeered car a day earlier, injuring a toddler and
At a news conference, Sheriff John Rutherford had few solid conclusions
about the complex sequence of events that played out Friday afternoon at
a suburban commercial strip.
Five officers fired during the police-involved shooting on Baymeadows
Road. Those bullets killed a bank robbery and carjacking suspect, but
also sent the woman and her son to Shands Jacksonville. He remained in
critical condition late Saturday.
"We had a very volatile situation," Rutherford said. "I just don't want
to try to speculate on why they felt the need to shoot at the suspect
while he was in the vehicle."
None of the officers has been formally interviewed yet, in order to
avoid interference with the criminal investigation, Rutherford said.
There will be at least two investigations, one criminal, and after that,
an administrative inquiry.
The boy's family is asking how officers' use of force to stop a bank
robbery and carjacking suspect ended so tragically.
The boy, Daniel Crichton, was hit by bullets in his arm and upper torso.
The sheriff said it is uncertain how long the toddler's status will
The boy's mother, Joann Cooper, 35, was driving when her car was
commandeered by the suspect after he fled the bank robbery. Cooper was
hit in the foot by shots from the officers and is also recovering at
Shands Jacksonville. Her stepdaughter, Alexis Cooper, 7, was in the car
but unharmed during the shooting.
On Saturday, the boy's father spoke out against the actions, saying he
now fears the police.
Daniel Crichton's father, Kirk Crichton, said he was frightened and
gravely concerned about what happened to his son. Crichton lives in
Jamaica and said by phone from an airport there that Daniel was in
critical but stable condition.
"There were two children in the car," he said. "How can you shoot
indiscriminately at the car? It's ridiculous."
Jacksonville Sheriff's Office policy prohibits officers from firing at a
moving vehicle other than as a last resort to prevent death or great
bodily harm to the officer or another person; as a last resort to
prevent escape of a felon who would pose imminent threat of death or
great bodily harm; and when authorized by a watch commander or higher
Rutherford would not speculate on the exact conditions that prompted the
officers to shoot. The car was hit at least 15 times in the windshield,
hood and passenger and driver's-side windows.
"If the officers felt that they had a opportunity to end it without
endangering the carjack victims, then I think it was wise that they
would try to do that, if they could do that safely," he said. "And I
don't know the answer to all that yet."
Rutherford said he doesn't yet have all the information about the
sequence of events or whether the firing officers knew the woman and two
children were in the car.
"We don't know what they saw. That's part of the problem," he said.
Cooper and the two children were in a car at the Wendy's drive-through
on Friday afternoon when the suspect, whose identity has not yet been
released, ran from a bank he had just robbed and carjacked the car by
pushing Joann Cooper into the passenger seat of the Nissan she was
driving, police said. One officer shot at the suspect just before he got
into the car.
As the suspect drove onto Baymeadows Road, four more officers working in
teams of two shot at him until the car came to rest in the middle of the
road and the suspect was dead.
The officers involved were both veterans and new to the force. Four were
on duty and one was off duty.
They were: Lt. J.E. York, a 22-year employee; Officer J.E. Lederman, a
13-year employee; Officer R.C. Santoro, an 11-year employee; Officer R.
Black, a 2 1/2-year employee; and recruit D. Griffith, in field training
and employed for a year.
It was the first officer-involved shooting for all but York, for whom it
was the first officer-involved shooting where a suspect was shot.
Rutherford said the department had not yet been able to reach the
suspect's next of kin. The gunman did not discharge his gun, a .357
revolver he was armed with when he entered the Wachovia bank about 3
p.m. and committed a takeover-style robbery, police said.
An expert interviewed Saturday by The Times-Union called such
circumstances extremely rare and a "worst-case scenario."
That makes training for such a situation virtually impossible, said
Thomas J. Aveni, executive director of The Police Policy Studies
Council. The presence of innocent bystanders in such proximity to an
armed suspect could either keep an officer from shooting to avoid
hurting the bystander - or make him more likely to shoot to protect
It seems unlikely that stop sticks - spiked strips that officers can lay
over a road to puncture a car's tires - would have been a possibility.
They take time to set up, and typically are deployed a mile in advance
or more, Aveni said.
"It takes quite a bit of time and directional knowledge," he said.
Aveni said that nationally, many police departments are taking stronger
steps to restrict when officers can shoot into or at moving vehicles.
The main reason? Accuracy. A car moving at 20 miles per hour is
equivalent to 30 feet per second.
"Officers tend to miss significant number of rounds when firing at
stationary human beings on foot," he said.
Joann Cooper's children attend a day school and academy run by
Baymeadows Baptist Church. A woman who answered the phone at the home of
Pastor Garry Broward late Saturday said he was unavailable for comment,
but that a special time of prayer for Cooper and her children would be
held during a church service today. She said Cooper's family had asked
for no other information to be released, and declined further comment.
Nelson Cuba, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said he had
spoken to the officers involved.
"The only concern of the officers right now is that child and that
family," he said. "That's all they're thinking about."
Sequence of Events
- At 3:09 p.m. the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is dispatched to an
armed bank robbery in progress at the Wachovia at Baymeadows Road and
Baymeadows Way. According to witnesses, a masked, armed gunman entered
the bank and ordered customers to the ground. Armed with a .357 revolver
with a 6-inch barrel, the suspect jumped the counter and knocked two
tellers to the ground.
- The suspect left with an undetermined amount of cash and fled into the
wooded area behind the bank.
- The suspect ran into the Wendy's parking lot and into the
drive-through lane. He yanked open the driver's-side door of a white
four-door Nissan sedan and pointed his gun at the female driver,
identified as Joann Cooper, 35.
- A pursuing officer, not identified, heard the suspect yell, "I'm going
to kill you." Officials say it is not clear whether this statement was
intended for Cooper or the officer.
- The same officer fired his agency-issued shotgun at the suspect, who
was standing outside the car with his gun pointed at the driver.
- The suspect overpowered Cooper and forced her into the passenger seat,
then began driving the car toward Baymeadows Road.
- Other officers had set up tactical positions on Baymeadows Road. As
the car moved past them, two officers fired shots at the gunman.
- The car continued forward, and as it went over the top of the median,
another two officers fired at the gunman as he attempted to exit the
vehicle, which was still rolling to a stop.
- Officers approached the victim's car and discovered Cooper, as well as
two small children in the car seats in the back. They are identified as
7-year-old Alexis Cooper, who was not injured, and 2-year-old Daniel
Crichton, who was critically wounded by gunshots to the upper torso and
arm. Joann Cooper, his mother and Alexis' stepmother, was shot in her
- Cooper and her son were rushed to Shands Jacksonville, where they
Source: Jacksonville Sheriff's Office