Sarasota, Florida - The mother of a Bradenton man shot and killed by Sarasota Deputies this week spoke only to 10 News. The shooting happened during a routine traffic stop around 9:30 Monday evening at the intersection of Washington Court and 29th Street.
Tonight Rodney's mother has many questions but few answers from sheriff officials. But in her heart, she believes deputies overreacted and it cost her son's life.
"Can't sleep, can't eat, all I do is cry .. he's my life," said Natasha Clemons, speaking of her oldest child. Rodney Mitchell, 23 years old, was her only son. "He's always smiling in all his pictures, he lights up a room," said Natasha.
Rodney has a 4-year-old son named Channing. Natasha said her son planned to be a teacher for mentally challenged kids. Rodney's mother said, "The community lost a true soldier, he came here to give back to his community."
A life ended in a brief moment during a routine traffic stop for what Sheriff's officials say was a seatbelt violation. Sarasota Sheriff's deputies opened fire on Rodney's white Jeep after Sheriffs officials said he refused to cooperate and then accelerated his car toward one of the deputies.
Wendy Rose with the Sarasota Sheriff's Office said the deputies acted appropriately. "Both deputies saw same threat same way responded simultaneously shooting at vehicle", said Rose.
Natasha questioned the deputies story. "My son was a responsible young man he respected cops not true I know my son listens to authority figures tell him to do", said Natasha.
Family attorney Daphney Branham said the actions were not justified. "We're told 4 shots were fired. One by one deputy, three by the other officers to disable the vehicle ... not take 4 shots, that was excessive use of force," said Daphney.
Rodney is Sarasota County Commissioner Carolyn Mason's great-great-nephew. Mason asked the community to remain calm.
Natasha said her son inspired her to go back to college and get a degree in education. She said she already worked as a registered nurse. She will be delaying finishing her degree this summer until her son's case is resolved. Natasha said, "I want justice to be served. This department needs to be turned inside out to know they need to follow the rules. They need to be held accountable for what they've done to my son."
Sarasota Sheriff officials said Rodney had a clean criminal record, except that he was driving with a suspended driver's license.
Also in the vehicle at the time of the shooting was Rodney's 16-year-old cousin. Deputies said he left the scene, but family members tell 10 News no one told him to stay.
Family members said the teen's parent took their son to the Sheriff's Office the night of the accident. They waited half an hour for a deputy to take their statement but no one showed up, so they left.
The parents have tried speaking to investigators, but both sides have not come to an agreement. The family has hired a lawyer. A spokesperson with the Sheriff's Office said the teen's mother has been subpoened to appear at the State Attorney's Office next week.
The State Attorney's Office will determine if the deputy shooting was justified.
Rodney's family has scheduled a wake for Friday at 5pm at Chandler's Funeral Home in Sarasota. A funeral will be held on Saturday at 1pm at First Baptist Church on Main Street.