Ruling: Lee deputy shot fugitive in self-defense
By STEVEN BEARDSLEY
Originally published 04:29 p.m., July 2, 2009
Updated 08:28 p.m., July 2, 2009
A Lee County Sheriff’s Office deputy who shot and killed a Fort Myers fugitive acted in self defense, the State Attorney’s Office concluded.
Detective Tim Galloway will face no charges for the January shooting death of Arthur Lee Coleman, a wanted car thief who had led police officers on several high-speed chases in the weeks before his death.
Coleman, 33, was shot moments after he hit a U.S. Marshal with a car and then turned it toward Galloway, the summary stated. Both officers were part of an inter-agency fugitive task force closing in on Coleman, who was staying at a Fort Myers home.
He and a woman, Kevondra Marion, tried to flee the home in separate cars as officers moved in. The Marshal, Scott Ley, was not seriously injured.
Galloway and Ley had both fired at Coleman as he pointed the car at them, the report said. Rounds from Galloway’s AR-15 killed Coleman, striking him through the windshield.
The officers feared for their lives, the report concluded.
“Therefore, their use of deadly force in shooting at the vehicle was a justifiable use of deadly force,” wrote Chief Assistant State Attorney Randall B. McGruther.
A loaded gun was later found inside the car.
The report also cleared a Fort Myers police officer who fired once at Marion’s car but didn’t hit her. Officer Robert Kerbs fired once. Two children, a 1-year-old girl and a 3-year-old boy, were in the car’s backseat, unbeknownst to the officer, the report said.
Witnesses at the scene described Marion as Coleman’s ex-girlfriend.
Prosecutors will not file charges against Marion, because they cannot prove she was intentionally aiming her car at the officers, the report said. She was originally arrested on a charge of aggravated assault.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated the shooting, handing it over to the State Attorney’s Office in April. Galloway, placed on light duty away from the public after the shooting, will return to his normal duties, said Sheriff’s Office spokesman John Sheehan.
Coleman’s death was the first of three officer-involved shootings involving Lee County deputies in a span of weeks earlier this year. It was the last to be resolved. The other two cases, one in San Carlos Park and another in Bonita Springs, were also deemed justifiable.
Following Coleman’s death, his attorney, Michelle Berthiaume, said her client was days away from turning himself over to police after hearing about a warrant in his name. He wanted to do it quietly, she said, because he feared what would happen if they came for him.
Berthiaume couldn’t be reached for comment on Thursday.
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