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Examining police use of force

Posted at 7:13 PM, Jun 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-15 19:13:22-04

COLLIER COUNTY, Fla — Fox 4 takes a look at two similar cases. The officer-involved killing of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta and the arrest of Devan Rewis in Collier County. Both men resisted arrest and ran from law enforcement.

Both ended deadly, but experts say officers handled one case better than the other.

Retired New Jersey Police Chief Walt Zalisko said officers should only shoot when their lives are in imminent danger, which was not the case with Rewis or Brooks, even after Brooks took a taser from an Atlanta police officer.

“There was really no imminent danger. The guy’s running away,” he said. “A non-lethal weapon in the hands of police, it does not become a lethal weapon in the hands of the public,” said Zalisko.

He said officers had other options before resulting to gunfire.

“You can call in other additional units. You have a description of him. You make a perimeter,” he said. “It was night time. It’s not like there were millions of people out on the street. It would be easy to find him somewhere.”

Then there’s the case of 31-year-old Devan Rewis, who Collier deputies attempted to arrest in Chokoloskee for a mandatory curfew violation after Hurricane Irma hit in September of 2017.

According to the arrest report, Rewis pushed a deputy, then hit him with his forearm and ran. Deputies then tased him, arrested him, and an EMT transported him to a hospital. He was released and sent to jail. Rewis died the next day. Zalisko said deputies did what they were supposed to do according to the report.

“Once they tase you to provide medical attention. In that one case, I saw that they did take him to the hospital. They did provide medical attention,” he said.

But the attorney representing Rewis’s family said policies should be reviewed in Rewis’s case too. The report said Rewis’ finger was on the trigger of the taser, activating the device longer than the deputy had intended. The attorney also claims he was tased multiple times after he was in custody.
The report also shows methamphetamine paraphernalia were found inside the car Rewis was in, and the medical examiner determined Rewis died from meth toxicity. Zalisko says meth combined with taser shocks could be deadly.

“That can cause heart failure, and that’s probably what happened in this case,” he said.

Atlanta Officer Garrett Rolf was fired for shooting brooks. The attorney representing Rewis’s family said they’re still looking to change policies for use of tasers after what happened to his client.