St. Pete police shoot black teenager, refuse to release body camera footage
On October 20 at around 3:30 p.m., St. Petersburg police arrived in Wildwood Park where they shot 17-year-old Christopher Tonsel in the stomach. Tonsel is still alive after a month of difficult hospitalization and is currently being held in an adult prison in appalling conditions. Despite calls from Tonsel’s family, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office has still not released body camera footage of this incident.
Police defined the story
Police officers in St. Petersburg first met Tonsel after a passerby called to report a dispute between Tonsel and his girlfriend. Police said Tonsel ran down the street a few blocks and ended up at a nearby house, where Constable Leighton Williams shot him in the stomach.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Department, which is investigating the police shootings, held a press conference on the day of the shooting to further their account of the events.
During the press conference, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri gave inconsistent accounts of the shooting – claiming at one point that Tonsel was shot while pulling out a gun and a another moment that he had gone out with a weapon already in hand.
Catherine Jones, Tonsel’s mother, says she has heard several conflicting accounts of what happened from detectives, but the sheriff’s office has yet to release footage of the shooting, which would help to clarify everything.
“If the officers acted on it, why can’t they just broadcast the footage? She said in an interview with Liberation News.
During the press conference, officials also demonized Tonsel as a “bad guy,” as if that justified the shooting.
Jones is very critical of this portrayal of his son: “They really push that ‘he was a bad kid’ story. This is not true. He’s a good boy. It’s as if they say it doesn’t matter… They have no proof and refuse to release the footage.
Health deteriorates, Tonsel held in solitary confinement in adult prison
After the shooting, Tonsel was taken to Bayfront Hospital, where he was placed on a ventilator. While in hospital, he developed pneumonia and had to undergo a tracheostomy, which became infected. Eventually, he was hospitalized for over a month.
Although still a minor, Tonsel was transferred directly from the hospital to the 49th Street Adult Prison in Clearwater, where he is being held under conditions of torture.
Jones reports that Tonsel is being held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. In addition, he has been denied his pain medication since arriving at the prison. Tonsel still faces a number of other health issues related to the shooting, including damage to the liver and pancreas and blood clots. His dressings need to be changed twice a day.
Notably, Jones said that before the shooting, Tonsel weighed around 170 pounds and now weighs less than 120 pounds. He couldn’t keep any food.
She is worried about his deteriorating health and whether he will even go to court: “[People are asking] “Will he be tried or will he plead?” Well, he won’t know. We’re not going to find out.
Tonsel faces several counts, including burglary, aggravated assault of a police officer, possession of a firearm by a person under the age of 18, and domestic assault and battery. During his incarceration, Tonsel always struggled to get in touch with his public defenders to effectively challenge these accusations.
The state offered Tonsel a 58-month plea deal behind bars. Plea agreements are commonly used to incarcerate people who are stuck in a difficult position. Many defendants accept plea deals regardless of their guilt or innocence, as they do not want to risk being wrongly convicted in court, where they will likely be sentenced to much longer terms than the court provides. plea agreement. In fact, 90-95% of federal and state court cases end in plea deals.
In this case, a plea deal also means that the state’s official history is less likely to be reviewed in court.
In the end, even if Tonsel does not accept the deal, it is clear that local authorities are hoping to cover up this police shooting by demonizing the victim and withholding video evidence that documents the truth of the incident.
However, the days when the police could easily cover up cases of brutality and misconduct are long gone.
Officials must end this cover-up, release the body camera footage to the public, provide Tonsel with proper medical care, and ensure his full access to a lawyer immediately!