Policeman Shoots University of Florida Student

I’m posting a newspaper story that appeared in the Gainesville Sun about an incident that happened here earlier this week. There have been accusations of police brutality aimed at the officers involved in this matter. A press conference took place yesterday. A march has been planned for the week after next. I intend to be one of the protesters taking part in this march. This is not the first time that something of this sort has taken place in this area, and its time that we take a stand, and leave a strong message, lest more of these incidents occur in the future. Its time to say, “No more!”


Sources: UF student was shot in head by police

Staff report

Published: Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 8:38 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 3, 2010 at 8:38 a.m.

A University of Florida graduate student described as delusional but praised by his students remained hospitalized Wednesday after being shot Tuesday night by university police, who went to his apartment after getting a 911 call about someone inside screaming.

Kofi Adu-Brempong, a 35-year-old doctoral student in geography from Ghana, remained under police guard Wednesday night at Shands at the University of Florida.

Sources close to the investigation said he suffered a gunshot wound to his head or face. A report on his condition was not released Wednesday night, but another source said the wound was considered life-threatening.

Police reported that Adu-Brempong’s colleagues said he was having delusions linked to fears that his student visa would be denied and that he had threatened officers with a knife and pipe before being shot. While several charges were filed against Adu-Brempong, including one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill, an Alachua County judge ruled Wednesday afternoon that there was not probable cause in the case.

The shooting, believed to be the first of a student by a UPD officer, surprised some of Adu-Brempong’s neighbors and current and former students. They said Adu-Brempong had a childhood case of polio and needed a cane to walk, and they questioned why police using a Taser and beanbag gun were unable to subdue him.

The standoff started at 8:17 p.m. at Adu-Brempong’s on-campus apartment at Corry Village. It began when a neighbor called 911 to report screaming in the apartment, UPD Capt. Jeff Holcomb said.

Police were unable to get Adu-Brempong to answer the door and eventually broke in after a standoff of almost 1 1/2 hours. Adu-Brempong was shot by Officer Keith Smith, Police Chief Linda Stump said.

Holcomb said Smith fired a Bushmaster M-4 rifle after Adu-Brempong threatened police. UF spokesman Steve Orlando said two shots were fired, with one striking Adu-Brempong.

Police declined to say how long after officers burst in that Adu-Brempong was shot.

“My understanding is when the call came in, it was from a neighbor who called hearing screaming. That’s all we knew. We didn’t know who was a resident, how many people were residents, was the screaming involving somebody else,” Holcomb said.

When Adu-Brempong quit talking with them, police decided to move in because they didn’t know if he was harming himself or someone else, Holcomb said.

Police said officers first tried to subdue Adu-Brempong with a Taser stun gun and a beanbag gun. Police said Adu-Brempong had a knife and pipe and threatened the officers involved — Smith, William Sasser, James Mabry, Stacy Ettel and William Ledger. They are members of the agency’s Critical Incident Response Team, which is similar to a SWAT team.

Police declined to say what Adu-Brempong specifically did that threatened the officers.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has taken over the investigation and declined to release most details surrounding the case.

Both UPD and FDLE declined to answer questions about the case, including whether Adu-Brempong charged at officers, how many officers had their guns drawn, the distance between them and Adu-Brempong, the size of his knife and whether Adu-Brempong had wounded himself.

Adu-Brempong was charged with one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill and five counts of resisting an officer with violence.

Alachua County Judge Denise Ferrero, however, found that based on what police had provided in the arrest report, there was not probable cause in the case, according to the State Attorney’s Office. The document included no facts but a legal conclusion, State Attorney Bill Cervone said.

Ferrero gave officers 72 hours to complete a report that would provide a recital of the facts, Cervone said.

Police first met with Adu-Brempong on Monday to check on him after a report of possible emotional problems.

Geography professor Peter Waylen had contacted police to say Adu-Brempong had sent an e-mail with troubling statements, which were redacted in the police report. Waylen told police Adu-Brempong had been having delusional thoughts for at least a year and that he previously had received help from a UF counselor because he believed the U.S. government was not going to renew his student visa, the report stated.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement employee said Wednesday the agency does not comment on such matters.

Waylen and an officer spoke Monday with Adu-Brempong at his apartment.

“I asked Adu-Brempong if he had any concerns that I could help with. Adu-Brempong advised that he was fine and did not need anyone’s help,” Officer Gene Rogers wrote in the report. “I advised him that Waylen and I were concerned for his safety and were there to assist him any way we could.”

The report states Adu-Brempong refused help from a counselor and stated several times that he was fine.

Some of Adu-Brempong’s neighbors and current and former students described him as a pleasant man who poked fun at his cane by referring to himself as “three-legged” during classes and in notes he wrote on tests.

“He called himself the three-legged son of Africa,” said Daniel Lynch, who took Adu-Brenong’s geography class in the fall.

One neighbor said Adu-Brempong parked his car in the grass next to his apartment because he had problems carrying groceries from the nearby parking lot. Students said he occasionally canceled class because of doctor’s appointments and walked around hunched over.

“It sounds kind of fishy that he was able to resist,” said Michael Blanchette, another student who took the fall class. “He could barely get around with a cane.”

Adu-Brempong taught Geography of a Changing World, a large lecture class that meets a general education requirement. He canceled his Monday class, said students, who also had their classes canceled Wednesday and Friday because of the shooting.

One student, Whitney Evans, expressed shock when she heard about the shooting.

“He’s really down to earth … He didn’t seem like a person who would flip out like that,” she said.

Corry Village neighbors described a scene Tuesday in which heavily armed police descended on the housing complex for graduate students and students with families. As the situation escalated, police evacuated the apartments closest to Adu-Brempong’s and told others to stay inside. Residents returned to their apartments Wednesday morning.

Neighbors said Adu-Brempong lived alone. His wife lives in Africa and was notified on the night of the shooting, according to UF.

A UF spokesman confirmed that Adu-Brempong has been at the university since 2005 but declined to provide information on his personnel record, citing student privacy laws.

Smith, the officer who shot Adu-Brempong, was involved in incidents in 2008 in which off-duty officers admitted they had traveled through high-crime areas in the city and harassed people.

Two officers later stated that the purpose was to “harass the prostitutes and drug dealers” and that they threw eggs on one occasion but that the eggs weren’t directed at any people.

Three Gainesville police officers received written warnings, according to the city police department. Smith, hired in November 2005, received a verbal warning for his involvement and was removed from his recently assigned position to the narcotics task force, university police reported at the time.

Contact Cindy Swirko at 374-5024 or swirkoc@gvillesun.com.

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