TALLAHASSEE, FL - July 24, 2020 - According to an online news report published on the news website StAugustine.com, a Leon Circuit Court Judge ordered the city of Tallahassee to publish the names of the two Tallahassee police officers who were involved in the shooting death of Tony McDade. The Tallahassee Police Department wanted Tony McDade because he was named a suspect in a stabbing case investigated by law enforcement. The ruling made by the Leon Circuit judge found that Marsy's Law does not protect the Tallahassee police officer who is alleged to have fatally shot Tony McDade. Therefore, the police officer's name may be released and made public.
According to the news report, the judge determined that the 2018 constitutional amendment passed by Florida voters, called Marsy's Law, does not apply in this high-profile police shooting case. Florida's Marsy's Law protects victims of crimes by preventing the disclosure of information, which may be used to "locate or harass" victims and victim's family members. The news report claims that this ruling could set an important legal precedent that affects Florida's Crime Victim Bill of Rights and its application in law enforcement use-of-force cases.
The judge's five-page order states that law enforcement officers perform "a unique duty" to police Florida's laws; however, law enforcement officers acting in an official capacity are not protected by Florida's Marsy's Law.
According to the news articles, the Florida Police Benevolent Association sued the City of Tallahassee to prevent the release of the police officers' names. The Florida Police Benevolent Association reportedly filed a Notice of Appeal immediately following the judge's ruling. Attorneys for the Police Benevolent Association stated that their position is that the police officers are "entitled to an automatic stay of the ruling pending review by the 1st District Court of Appeal." The article states that the appeal could delay the release of the officer's names in the near future.
The alleged victim was fatally shot on May 27, 2020, a few minutes after the man allegedly fatally stabbed a next-door neighbor. The stabbing incident occurred on Saxon Street, and the alleged stabbing suspect fled to a Holton Street apartment complex. According to the news report, a law enforcement officer arrived and used shot the stabbing suspect after the stabbing suspect allegedly pointed a gun at the law enforcement officer. The news report also states that another police officer was also at the scene of the fatal shooting.
Last month, the Police Benevolent Association filed its lawsuit meant to shield the two police officers from having their names released to the public. The attorneys' key position for the police union was that the two police officers were victims of aggravated assault, and therefore, the officers are protected by Marsy's Law. The Police Benevolent Association further contended that by releasing the names of the two officers could put their lives in danger. In the Police Benevolent Association complaint, individuals at the fatal shooting scene directed threat toward the police who allegedly shot the stabbing suspect. Also, the lawsuit claims that the police officer has endured "ongoing animosity" toward him since the shooting incident.
Opponents to the Police Benevolent Association's legal position argued that any law enforcement officer conducting their official duties must not be given confidentiality as this would prohibit the public from keeping the police accountable for unlawful use of force.