Appeals court overturns decision clearing Tampa, officer in 2014 ‘suicide by cop’ shooting

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by
Jason Turk

Federal appeals judges overturned a court ruling that cleared the city of Tampa and a police officer in an attempted “suicide by proxy” case where a local real estate agent was shot after threatening to kill himself.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling Friday that had absolved the city and officer Timothy Bergman, who shot Jason Turk twice in the face while he sat in a car Jan. 9, 2014. Amanda Turk, Turk’s estranged wife, called 911 telling dispatchers her husband was threatening suicide. The Turks and their attorney claim Turk never pointed his gun at the officers.

They also argue that Bergman, a K-9 officer, was not adequately trained to handle the situation. The couple sued police for violating Turk’s constitutional rights by using excessive force.

“The suit is about law enforcement being accountable,” Michael Maddux, the Turks’ lawyer, told the Tampa Tribune. “They had a cry for help and the response was tactical, almost like he was committing a crime.”

Although the lower court decided Turk’s rights were not violated, the appeals court overturned the ruling, sending it back to the lower court.

“We cannot say that a police officer in Officer Bergman’s position would reasonably perceive Mr. Turk, a non-suspect sitting in the BMW, as posing an imminent threat of serious physical harm to the police officers on scene,” the ruling said. “We must reverse the district court’s grant of summary judgment on all counts and remand for further proceedings. On remand, the district court in the first instance should consider the other defenses raised by Officer Bergman and the City of Tampa but not ruled on in the first summary judgment order.”