Clair-Mel protests fatal shooting of unarmed man

A SWAT deputy shot a 22-year-old man in Clair-Mel while serving a warrant.

Protesters are call for justice in Hillsborough County after the sheriff's office admits a deputy shot an unarmed man.

Tuesday morning, the SWAT team had been carrying out a drug dealing warrant at Levonia Riggins' home on Longwood Loop in Clair-Mel, when Deputy Caleb Johnson says Riggins reached for his waistband.  It prompted Johnson to shoot the 22-year-old once, killing him. 

“This is real.  They murdered that boy.  That boy didn't die, he was murdered by the police," says Riggins’ neighbor.

The sheriff's office and community leaders are calling for calm after the death has already sparked riots.  Thursday night, protestors started fires, threw sigs in the street and other hazards for drivers.

The sheriff’s office and state attorney are investigating if the deputy’s justified shooting and killing the unarmed man in his home.

Ralliers are demanding justice for Riggins.  Friday night, protests remained mostly peaceful, other than blocking traffic along 78th Street and an accident.  Deputies were positioned near the gathering in case violence erupted.  The sheriff's office vows they're on the same side searching for the truth in the deadly shooting.

“They kill our children.  We’re tired of them killing our children,” says a protestor.

The Clair-Mel community is raising concerns over Riggins’ death.

“We’re saddened.  We’re saddened and angry, so when those two things collide, it's not good,’” says Riggins’ friend, Jermunte Harvey.

The sheriff's office says undercover deputies bought marijuana from Riggins 3 times over the past 2 months.

The SWAT team had been carrying out a drug warrant at Riggins home around 8 a.m. Tuesday.

Deputies say Riggins refused to come out.  Armed with the knowledge Riggins had a criminal record and guns at the home in the past, they broke out a window.

“Mr. Riggins then jumped up and moved his hands towards his waistband, in which time Deputy Johnson fired his firearm one time,” says Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Col. Donna Lusczynski.  “There was no firearm located at the scene,” Lusczynski says.

“They're asking for answers.  They're asking for Caleb Johnson's badge, and for him to be charged as the murderer he is.  You murdered him.  You murdered him.  He didn't have no weapon,” Riggins’ neighbor says.

Fiery protests erupted Thursday.  “We want the community to remain calm.  It does not serve anyone good when you go out and destroy property, especially in your own neighborhood,” says community leader Pastor Thomas Scott.

Deputies arrested five people for enticing a riot.

Friday, the sheriff met with community leaders vowing transparency in the investigation along with the state attorney.

“I think this is unprecedented.  I don't know if I've ever seen a case in recent time that all of this is happened in America, in which within 72 hours there's been a meeting with the community,” says James Cole with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Black Advisory Coucil.

“Everyone wants answers.  If you hide stuff in the dirt, it's going to come to light,” says Harvey.

Johnson has been with the sheriff's office 7 years and spent 3 years on SWAT.  He's now on routine paid leave during the investigation.

Records show Riggins has been arrested 7 times in the past 4 years for burglary, drugs and grand theft.


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