It’s been more than two weeks since Gregory Frazier was fatally shot by Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies in his Pompano Beach backyard — and we still don’t know the names of the two deputies who are responsible.
By way of comparison, when Alton Sterling was shot by Baton Rouge police in July, the officers’ names were released the next day. The same thing happened when Philando Castile was shot that same week: By the end of the following day, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety had released the officers’ names.
More recently, when 13-year-old Tyre King was shot in Columbus, police released the name of the officer who shot him at a press conference the same day. That same week, Terence Crutcher was killed after his car broke down in Tulsa. It took police two days to announce that Officer Betty Shelby had fired the fatal shot. Four days after that, she was charged with manslaughter. And, in Charlotte, where numerous details about the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott are still disputed, police revealed the name of the shooter, Officer Brentley Vinson, within hours.
But stonewalling isn’t unheard of. Earlier this year, the Washington Post compiled a database of all fatal officer-involved shootings that took place in 2015. They found that in 1 of 5 cases, the officers' names were never disclosed. Since there's no national standard for when — or if — names are released, police departments can use their discretion. And in some cities, including Chicago, police union contracts actually prevent departments from releasing names unless the officers face criminal charges.
“It’s definitely a trend that’s starting where they’re protecting officers,” says Adner Marcelin, communications manager and law clerk for Parks & Crump, which is representing Frazier’s family. The firm also reps the families of Terence Crutcher, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and numerous other victims of police-involved shootings. “Is it something we’ve seen before? Absolutely. Is it something that’s normal? No. And it doesn’t make the public feel any confidence in the investigation when [police] hide information.”
Asked about the delay, BSO public information officer Veda Coleman-Wright explained the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has asked that the names not be released until agents have taken the deputies’ statements. She added that she had no idea when that was expected.
Given that two full weeks have passed since the shooting, you might think the FDLE would have gotten around to taking those statements by now. Apparently not. According to spokesperson Molly Best, “FDLE agents are reviewing evidence and documentation currently and will be scheduling officer interviews soon.”
Asked what exactly “soon” meant — days, weeks, months — Best said she couldn’t provide that information. “FDLE conducts a thorough investigation and each case has different investigative aspects. I am not able to provide you with a timetable on an active investigation,” she wrote in an email.
So, just to recap what’s going on here: The BSO says it can’t give out the officers’ names because the FDLE hasn’t talked to them yet. The FDLE says it can’t give us even a rough sense of when they plan on talking to those officers because… they just can’t. A+++ for transparency.
Meanwhile, people in Pompano Beach are growing increasingly frustrated.
“I’ve been writing emails to the commissioners, the mayor, the BSO, the state attorney’s office... everybody says they don’t know anything,” community activist Sharonda Chery says. “I swear, they don’t care about us. It’s so disheartening.”
On Friday afternoon, BSO released the official incident report of the shooting. All names besides Frazier’s have been redacted, and it doesn’t add any information beyond what’s already been reported.
It does, however, confirm what his sister, Deborah, has said: Deputies showed up and almost instantly opened fire. By BSO’s own admission, it took all of one minute for deputies to shoot Frazier after arriving at the house.
“At 22:01 hours Deputy [redacted] and Deputy [redacted] arrived on scene,” the report says. “They were advised by the callers that the black male, Gregory Frazier, was behind the home, in the back yard armed with a knife. They then came in contact with Frazier in the back yard. He was still armed with a knife. At 22:02 hours Deputy [redacted] advised shots fired and to send Fire Rescue. Pompano Beach Fire Rescue received the call at 22:03 hours and Rescue 61 was dispatched at 22:04 hours.”
You can view the full incident report here: