Police procedures not followed in the death of a plain clothes officer
Jan. 21--Widespread failure to follow police procedures contributed to the fatal shooting of UCF police Officer Mario Jenkins before a football game last September at the Florida Citrus Bowl, a report made public Friday shows.
The five volumes of evidence, stacked 19 inches high with investigator memos, photos and witness statements, reveal an escalating series of chaotic events made worse by police errors and misjudgments in the hours before the University of Central Florida football game Sept. 24.
There were no backup officers to watch Jenkins, no radios to call for help, no pepper spray, Tasers or batons to use instead of guns on rowdy tailgaters suspected of underage drinking.
"Hey, I don't have a radio, so if you hear me screaming . . . come and find me," Jenkins, in a joking manner, told a colleague 15 minutes before he died, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement report shows.
Maj. Randy Mingo, Jenkins' supervisor, told FDLE investigators he asked Jenkins to wait for another officer before heading into a crowd of fans, but Jenkins said he was OK. Minutes later, Orlando reserve police Officer Dennis R. Smith shot and killed Jenkins, unaware the man hovering with his gun over a wounded tailgater was really another cop.
The report stopped short of directly blaming the mistakes for the tragedy. But in page after page, it details problems.
"The facts that similar enforcement action has been conducted over the past three football seasons without the officers or agents encountering significant physical resistance seems to have led to a sense of complacency on the part of involved agencies, with little attention being given to tactical concerns and issues of officer identification or safety," the report concludes.
Jenkins was working a joint operation targeting underage drinking between UCF police, Orlando police and the state Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco. But coordination was so nonexistent that the agencies didn't hold a meeting together before the game to let one another know what they were doing.
Capt. German Garzon Jr., a state alcohol beverage district director in charge of policing UCF football games at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, hadn't contacted Orlando police during the season or looked at the department's security plan for the stadium, records show.
Orlando police weren't even aware that a state alcohol agent assigned to be its department's liaison for the details quit the Tallahassee-based state agency at least a year earlier.
"Further, the operation appears to have failed to incorporate many practices or techniques generally accepted to maximize officer safety during a plainclothes operation," wrote Special Agent Supervisor John Burke. "There was no formal effort made to introduce the plainclothes officers to the uniformed OPD personnel involved."
Orlando police Chief Mike McCoy said he had not seen the FDLE report but said its findings already were being used to complete an internal investigation of Smith's use of deadly force. The state attorney found the shooting justified.
State officials said they have not begun internal investigations or reviews of their officers' actions that day. Meanwhile, calls to UCF police director Richard Turkiewicz were referred to the university's governmental relations office, which said UCF will study the FDLE's recommendations and incorporate them into policies.
"We are not going to split hairs or react to details in the report," said Dan Holsenbeck, vice president for university relations.
The future of Operation Knight Watch, which targets underage drinking in on-campus and off-campus activities, also will be reviewed, Holsenbeck said. After the shooting, UCF changed some aspects of the operation, including a halt to plainclothes officers.
The report, released by the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office, disclosed for the first time Friday that a state alcohol agent also was aiming his pistol at Jenkins when Smith fatally shot Jenkins three times. Smith said he fired when Jenkins raised his pistol and started turning toward him.
"And as it started up, I fired once. Didn't seem to have any effect," Smith said. "The firearm still came up. I fired the second round, at which point . . . he lost his balance momentarily. The handgun came up again."
Jenkins fired two rounds toward Smith before collapsing, reports show. The shots narrowly missed Smith.
Neither Smith nor ABT Special Agent James Ricky Davis knew or recognized Jenkins as a fellow officer, records show. What they told investigators they saw was a man dressed in a green Guinness ale shirt who had been firing shots in the crowd and was then pointing a pistol at a wounded man on the ground.
Davis holstered his pistol when he heard Garzon screaming, "Don't shoot. Don't shoot. He's a cop. He's a cop. He's a cop," Davis told FDLE.
Jenkins, 29, kept his badge hidden when he first entered the area where members of a UCF drinking club were angry that police earlier confiscated a keg of beer, according to interviews conducted by FDLE with more than 70 witnesses. The level of drinking was described by one of the witnesses, who said he and three friends finished a 12-pack of beer within five minutes of reaching the party.
The brawl broke out after Jenkins asked Sonia Raab, 24, for her drivers license to show she could legally drink beer. Jenkins pulled out a police badge hanging on a chain around his neck to prove he was an officer, records show.
Two of Raab's friends intervened, with one saying she didn't have to say anything to the police officer, reports show. One of those friends, Robert McLintock II, 22, was described by several witnesses as extremely intoxicated and belligerent. Witnesses said McLintock repeatedly taunted Jenkins and fled from the officer as other fans grabbed Jenkins and tossed beer on him, reports show.
McLintock, seen in photos with Jenkins holding a gun to his head, was not charged. He would not make a statement to investigators.
The rising confrontation "looked like a mosh pit," said Nicole Michelle Jorgensen, 22, describing how fans swarmed around Jenkins and kept him from breaking free to catch the fleeing student.
The crowd opened enough to form a circle around Jenkins, and some of the fans began chanting, "Fight. Fight," records show. Jenkins used the space to draw his weapon and fire several warning shots. The crowd drew back and several witnesses told FDLE they could see his police badge.
A woman standing next to Michael John Young, then 23, who subsequently tackled Jenkins and was shot by the officer, said Young must have seen the badge, according to the report.
Young was charged last month with battery on a law-enforcement officer and resisting an officer with violence, and the report was released as part of the discovery process in his criminal case.
Young said he was trying to stop a gunman, according to a statement to FDLE agents taken the next morning after surgery in Orlando Regional Medical Center. He told FDLE he didn't remember how he got shot in the abdomen.
His lawyer, Diana Tennis of Orlando, said the hospital-bed interview was a lame attempt by investigators to confuse her client and damage his credibility.
"He was on multiple painkillers, including a morphine drip, and he wasn't in any condition to be interviewed," she said Friday. "I think medical reports will show he was high as a kite."