SARASOTA, Fla. -- The incident began at the intersection of U.S. 301 and Dr. MLK Way. Rodney Mitchell was heading north on U.S. 301 and Deputy Adam Shaw was in a turning lane. According to a Sarasota Sheriff's Office firearms report written by Deputy Shaw, he made a U-turn to pull Mitchell over after noticing Mitchell was not wearing his seatbelt. The report goes on to say Mitchell's vehicle did not yield to emergency lights.
In a separate firearms report, backup Deputy Sergeant Troy Sasse wrote that vehicle eventually came to a stop and Deputy Shaw approached the driver’s window. Sasse says he heard Shaw tell the suspect to put the vehicle in park multiple times and that is when the suspect reached down with his right hand out of view. Sasse says that’s when he drew his weapon. Mitchell was killed in the ensuing gunfire.
ABC 7 obtained three different reports detailing the events of the traffic stop, and all three give slightly different accounts of what happened. According to one of Deputy Shaw's reports, he says he pulled his weapon and began firing when the SUV accelerated toward Sgt. Sasse. But a crime scene investigator hired by the victim’s mother's attorney says that story doesn't add up.
"The original report is omitting certain information, certain findings, that if you omit those findings you change the outcome of the experiments that were actually conducted,” says investigator Ken Williams. “So, if you change the outcome you’re basically not getting the proper answers to questions."
The investigator demonstrated some of those discrepancies during a reenactment performed at ABC 7.
"Deputy Shaw is at the window, so he is the primary officer. He has contact with Mr. Mitchell, he sees inside the vehicle everything that’s going on inside the vehicle -- the window’s down,” Williams says. “Sgt. Sasse, who's at the front, doesn't have the vantage of seeing inside the vehicle as does Deputy Shaw. What is perplexing is Sgt. Sasse is perceiving a treat, but he's not the primary officer on the scene drawing his weapon out, pointing, aiming -- and it’s a tactical weapon."
According to the firearms report, Shaw says he was 3 feet away from the SUV when he began firing the first of two shots from his 9 millimeter weapon. Sasse says he was one foot away when he fired his gun twice. According to an independent crime scene analyst who reviewed the case for the State Attorney's Office, Sgt. Sasse's second shot fatally wounded Mitchell.
ABC 7 requested interviews with both Deputy Shaw and Sgt. Sasse, but those request were denied by the department.
However, the sheriff department did send us this statement:
"While it is regrettable that Mr. Mitchell lost his life, the facts of this case confirm that he chose to disobey the lawful commands of the deputies."
Coming up on Friday, we'll have more details about the discrepancies in this case and why many are now questioning the past performance of both deputies.