SARASOTA, Fla. -- For the past several days, we've been reporting on the case of Rodney Mitchell, a recent college graduate who was shot and killed by Sarasota Sheriff’s deputies back in 2012. The story is once again in the spotlight thanks to ABC 7 contributor Dr. Ed James, who conducted an exclusive interview with Mitchell’s mother and her attorneys for ABC 7’s Black Almanac.
Rodney Mitchell was fatally shot in 2012. Since then, the two deputies involved have continued to work at the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office, but their backgrounds have raised much concern.
Who are these Sheriff’s deputies?
Deputy Adam Shaw was hired in 2010. Since then, he's frequently reported a high number of traffic stops when compared to his fellow deputies. He's even won awards for his Click It or Ticket efforts. He made his television debut on the popular police show Cops, where he was featured arresting someone for riding a scooter with a suspended license.
But for many, Shaw’s personnel file raises concerns. The deputy has received at lease six complaints, all of which had to do with how he conducted his traffic stops. In three of those complaints, the subject said they were pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt when, in fact, they were. One person said Shaw pulled his weapon during the stop, and that the gun being pointed at the motorist was not warranted.
Also of note: Shaw had just come off of 90-day probation the day prior the Mitchell shooting.
Deputy Sergeant Troy Sasse was the deputy who actually fired the fatal shot that killed Mitchell. Sasse, who has been with the department since 2003, was involved in another deadly shooting that began as a routine traffic stop back in 2007.
The past histories of the deputies have raised red flags and sparked protest in the black community. Leon Harris, the former president of the Democratic Black Caucus of Manatee and Sarasota counties says the shooting shows a pattern of injustice that began prior to the Mitchell shooting.
“The alarming thing is the reason why he was killed,” Harris says. “He was stopped for a seatbelt violation and he had his seatbelt on -- and this is why we call that racial profiling."
Harris adds that since the shooting, little has been done to shed light on the situation. Now he's once again calling for action.
“I would like to see these two officers relieved of their duties for murder," Harris says.
The sheriff department did conduct an internal investigation into the Mitchell shooting and found the deputies were justified.
We have requested interviews with both Deputy Shaw and Deputy Sasse, but those requests have been denied.
In the meantime, Rodney Mitchell's family has not given up their fight. Mitchell’s mother has retained an attorney, and while no formal action has been filed, the Sarasota Sheriff’s Office says there is litigation pending.