Opinion by Lee Williams
Fourteen – that’s the number of times Tampa Police officer Bryan Velazquez told John Reuben Turbe, Jr. to drop his gun, during a brief foot pursuit Sunday night.
Fourteen verbal warnings went unheeded.
Instead, Turbe turned to face the officer, started walking toward him, raised a pistol he was holding in his right hand and aimed it at the officer.
Officer Bryan Velazquez had no choice but to fire. The muzzle of Turbe’s handgun was pointing directly at him when the 33-year-old lawman pulled the trigger four times.
“Shots fired! Shots fired! Subject down, Velazquez told dispatchers.”
The officer’s bodycam footage resumed as he and a female officer were performing CPR. Turbe, 40, died at the scene. He had been involved in a fight earlier, allegedly, near the 3700 block of Temple Street, which is not one of Tampa’s best neighborhoods.
I know all too well what the young officer faces now. Internal Affairs detectives will take a urine sample. They’ll read him Miranda and Garrity, which is Miranda for cops, and conduct a recorded interview. He’ll be placed on administrative leave. Two investigations will be launched. One to determine whether he violated department policy. The other to determine whether to charge him with murder. His friends will stop by his house. They’ll bring beer – a lot of beer, I hope. He’ll receive a medal of some kind in about a year, once all the legal proceedings have concluded. He’ll feel embarrassed as they pin it on his uniform.
Turbe’s family and friends will rally around him. They’ll tell the media what a great guy he was – what a great life he’d have led, if he had not been shot by police. They will create a memorial at the site where he was killed. There will be protests and marches in his memory.
The quarterbacks – the Monday morning variety – will slink out of their caves and tell the world what the officer should or shouldn’t have done, even though none of them have ever heard, much less fired a shot in anger.
Eventually, the public caterwauling over the shooting will subside. Officer Velazquez will return to duty. Some of his friends and coworkers will treat him differently from now on. They’ll be unsure of what to say to him. That’s normal. Turbe may pay a visit sometimes, in dreams. That’s normal, too.
Sunday night, Officer Velazquez joined a very small fraternity of sorts. Fortunately, not many lawmen ever become members.
Don’t pay any heed to what you hear in the media about the shooting, Bryan. You did good.
I’m glad you won.
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