When Officer Amy Schwartz of the Bradenton Police Department was dispatched for a shooting call, her sense of urgency was sadly lacking.
The officer’s lack of emergency response was noted five months after a woman accidentally shot her boyfriend in her home in Bradenton.
On Feb. 21, the Bradenton Police Department responded to a 911 call about 20-year-old Malik Gore-Bell, who was found fatally shot in the head in the bedroom of his girlfriend’s home.
Gore-Bell’s girlfriend, who is not facing any charges, told the police the handgun accidentally went off when her boyfriend handed it toher to put it away on top of the dresser — a practice the couple adopted when children were at home, as was the case that day.
Police later concluded the scene was consistent with the girlfriend’s explanation and the shooting was deemed accidental, according to Lt. Brian Theirs.
No charges were pressed against the girlfriend. However, the responding police officer was punished for failing to show any sense of urgency.
Schwartz, who was the primary officer, was initially told there was a shooting incident and, later, told it was a self-inflicted one. The officer drove to the scene without activating her squad car’s lights or sirens. She also drove below the speed limit, often times stopping at a red light and stop signs and even pulled over as one of her own sergeants passed her by, lights flashing and siren blaring, according to an internal investigation.
Other officers arrived at the scene before her but she still did not change her response.
“I did not respond ... in lights and sirens, priority mode, because it was to me an issue of getting more information to determine the severity of the incident,” Schwartz told the internal affairs investigator.
According to Schwartz, she decided to do so because the incident was a self-inflicted shooting and hence deemed not a danger to the society, the victim was reported to be unresponsive and there were other units closer.
Later, when she was confronted by her sergeant at the scene of the crime, Schwartz said she never responds in emergency mode unless an “officer is down” or asks for help.
When questioned by internal affairs investigators, Schwartz said she did not remember saying that but “it sounds like something I would say,” according to her interview script.
When asked if it was a general practice to not to respond with sirens and lights for emergency calls, Schwartz said, “I rarely do given certain circumstances.”
Apparently, those circumstances included the severity of the threat to people, the information being relayed and officers closest to the incident.
“For a decision based on the information that I had at the time, I made a choice that was safer for the people around me with the information that I has in addition to myself to be able to help other people,” Schwartz said. “Knowing this, obviously a decision that’s frowned upon, I could have responded in a different fashion.”
Schwartz has not been fired from her job despite there being four violations of the department’s general orders against her. These offenses should have gotten her fired, but instead, Bradenton police suspended her for 100 hours without pay, ordered her to undergo an 18-month training course and referred her to counseling, according to a June 14 memo.
Even though Schwartz has been suspended three times in the past year and labeled as a “chronic offender,” she is now back on her job.
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