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Despite ruling, names of TPD officers involved in deadly shootings still being withheld

Posted at 5:50 PM, Jul 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 17:50:49-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — A Leon County judge ruled Friday that law officers who shot and killed suspects can't use the Marsy's Law to hide their identities.

One of those officers killed Tony McDade after he said McDade pointed a gun at him. The other says he shot a man coming at him with a knife.

Attorneys for those officers appealed the ruling, meaning another judge gets to have a say.

Leon County Circuit Court Judge Charles Dobson ruled the law does not apply to officers when they're on the job.

"The officer is a victim just like anybody else in this situation so Marsy's Law kicks in," said TPD Chief Lawrence Revell. "The officer is afforded the same rights as any other victim."

Chief Revell promised protection under Marsy's Law hours after the third time an officer shot a suspect this year.

An officer killed Mychael Johnson on March 20. That officer says Johnson was resisting arrest.

On May 19, the officer says Wilbon Cleveland came at him with a knife, causing him to fire his gun. Eight days later, an officer shot Tony McDade after he said McDade pulled a gun first.

Each officer saying they were victimized by attacks from the suspects.

"My clients both cherish their privacy," lawyer for the officers, Stephen Webster said on June 17. "They're concerned they're going to lumped into the bad acts of some others unfairly."

Leading attorneys on behalf of two of the officers filed a lawsuit ensuring protection.

The city attorney claims under Sunshine Laws those names have to be released, leaving a judge to decide between the two amendments.

As attorneys argued in court, protesters called for transparency in the streets.

"I think its all put attention and pressure on the state attorney, the PBA, and the political establishment to step up and do something," said Delilah Pierre with Tallahassee Community Action Committee.

This isn't the end of the legal battle.

The Police Benevolent Association has appealed the judge's decision leaving those names concealed until the appeal is closed.

Still, McDade's family is happy with Friday's ruling.

"It goes towards forcing the police department to be transparent," said Mutaqee Akbar, the attorney for the McDade family. "That's all I've been asking for and the community has been asking for."

A date for the first appeal hearing hasn't been set yet.

While the legal fight to hide those officers' names continues, another legal battle wages to see the body camera video of McDade's death.

"Some of the things that Judge Dobson pointed out in his order I believe will carry out in our case, as far as public disclosure," Akbar said.

While Akbar prepares to fight for body camera footage, Stephen Webster is appealing the Marsy's Law ruling on behalf of the officers.

Last month, Webster told ABC 27, "In the climate that we have right now, there's a lot of animosity towards law enforcement." Webster continues to argue that his client's lives will be at risk if their names are exposed.

A date for the appellate case hasn't been set yet.

ABC 27 reached out to the Police Benevolent Association who said they said they're not addressing the ruling at this point.