Boy loses finger west of Fort Pierce – TCPalm.com

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Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/crime/st-lucie-county/2016/09/25/boy-loses-finger-west-fort-pierce/91086292/

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Demarcus Semer shooting: Grand jury won’t indict Fort Pierce police officers

FORT PIERCE — In describing the events of the traffic stop before Demarcus Semer’s shooting death, Chief Assistant State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl said Tuesday there may have been less than perfect decisions by Fort Pierce police, but their actions weren’t criminal.

Bakkedahl made the statements hours after announcing a grand jury’s “no true bill” decision not to charge Officer Ralph Keith Holmes and Sgt. Brian MacNaught in connection with the death of 21-year-old Semer. The officers were placed on administrative leave with pay after the shooting. Both will remain on paid leave pending the conclusion of a Police Department internal investigation, according to a news release on the city’s website.

Semer’s mother, LaTrecia Middleton, broke down in tears after the announcement. Family attorney Lorenzo Williams said the family will address the case in civil court.

A 22-page grand jury report contains the first detailed narrative of what investigators said happened shortly before midnight April 23 on North 23rd Street.

The officers are identified as “Officer #1” and “Officer #2,” but they are Holmes and MacNaught, respectively, according to Bakkedahl.

The report states Holmes, who was parked, saw Semer’s vehicle, which he estimated to be traveling 45 mph in a 25 mph zone.

WHAT HAPPENED

About 11:15 p.m., Semer left his girlfriend’s home in Vero Beach, and was heading to a friend’s home in the 500 block of North 19th Street.

Holmes got behind Semer and turned on his lights. Semer didn’t stop and the officer briefly activated the siren.

As the officer saw Semer turn onto North 19th Street, he saw the car shake or move, making the officer believe the driver was getting something or trying to hide something.

Holmes knew there had been a significant amount of shootings in the area. The report noted there were 39 shooting incidents between Jan. 1 and April 23 in Fort Pierce. Most of those were within several blocks of the traffic stop.

Semer initially declined to provide his driver’s license. The officer smelled marijuana, and saw marijuana “shake” on the instrument panel.

Testing showed a small amount of marijuana in Semer’s car, and also showed Semer to have levels of marijuana in his blood consistent with having ingested pot within 30 minutes of his death.

MacNaught arrived just as Holmes was telling Semer he smelled and saw marijuana. MacNaught heard Holmes ordering Semer out of the car, but Semer refused to get out.

MacNaught went to the passenger side, leaning in to ensure there were no other people inside. Holmes tried to get Semer out, but didn’t tell Semer to turn the car off or remove the keys. Holmes opened Semer’s door and “reached into the vehicle to extract Mr. Semer.”

Semer reached for the gear shifter. MacNaught didn’t know whether Semer intended to put the car in reverse or drive.

MacNaught jumped in the car, concerned he might be crushed if the car reversed. Holmes got tangled in the door as the car took off, and wound up on the ground.

“Unfortunately what happens is Holmes is observing this and is thinking MacNaught’s getting run over and he begins to discharge his weapon into the car,” Bakkedahl said. “Very bad mistake, very bad mistake.”

Bakkedahl said Holmes thought he was doing what he needed to do to save his sergeant’s life.

“Who would Holmes have been primarily focused on but his fellow officer who’s hanging out of the passenger-side door of that moving car,” he said. “Holmes thinks he’s shooting at the driver in attempts to save his sergeant’s life and stop the vehicle. Two of the shots went directly at Sgt. MacNaught.”

Bakkedahl said had the bullets not stopped in the car, they could have struck MacNaught.

According to the report, Holmes fired his gun and collapsed. His knee was injured and he has undergone surgery.

As the car continued forward, MacNaught was inside and “was met with physical resistance from Mr. Semer.”

He heard the gunshots and couldn’t determine where they were coming from.

“Given the fact that it would have been inconceivable to (MacNaught) that (Holmes) would have been firing at Mr. Semer’s car with a fellow law enforcement officer inside the vehicle, we find it reasonable that (MacNaught) concluded that it was Mr. Semer who had fired the gun,” the report states.

MacNaught told Semer to stop and fired his Taser. Semer slammed on the brakes, throwing MacNaught into the dashboard.

Investigators found one of two Taser probes in Semer’s chest; the other probe didn’t touch him. Both need to make contact for the shocking device to be effective.

Semer was out of the car as MacNaught got his bearings.

“At this moment, given everything that had just occurred, (MacNaught) feared that Mr. Semer was either going to shoot him through the windshield or come around to the other side of the car and shoot him,” the report states.

He got out of the car and drew his gun, and followed Semer. He said Semer turned back toward him while raising a hand.

MacNaught saw an object in Semer’s hand.

“Based upon his struggle with Mr. Semer within the car and the sound of gunshots, (MacNaught) was convinced that this object was a firearm and that Mr. Semer was about to shoot him,” the report states.

The officer fired and kept firing as Semer disappeared around a corner of a home.

“As he rounded the corner, he came face to face with Mr. Semer,” the report states.

Semer’s hands were empty, but his cell phone was nearby.

Semer went to the ground, and MacNaught started performing CPR.

Semer died of a gunshot wound to the lower right side of his back. Six cartridge casings fired by MacNaught were found.

“The flight path was consistent with Mr. Semer turning and raising an arm with the shooter positioned behind him and to his right,” the report states.

Investigators found a small bag of marijuana in the area, and also a marijuana grinder in Semer’s vehicle.

“It is reasonable to conclude that Mr. Semer’s reluctance to cooperate and his ultimate flight was an ill-fated attempt to avoid arrest for two minor misdemeanor drug offenses,” the report states.

Both officers appeared before the grand jury without counsel and without any promise of immunity.

Bakkedahl said when talking about a justifiable use of deadly force by law enforcement, they are talking about self defense.

“This isn’t a shooting a fleeing felon case,” he said. “This is MacNaught saying, ‘I thought he had a gun, I thought my life was in danger and I shot.’ That’s what it is.”

‘WE’VE GOT TO FIX THAT’

Bakkedahl said there is distrust among citizens in Fort Pierce and law enforcement, a community where shooting reports occurred dozens of times in the months before the Semer incident.

Still, he said, most in the community are good, hard-working people who want their children to do better.

He also acknowledged racial issues and that improvements can be made.

“I say to the young men and women who encounter law enforcement on a daily basis: You may feel you’re not being treated professionally and we’ve got to fix that. You may feel that you’re being picked on and we’ve got to fix that. But … give yourself the chance to beat the rap.”

He called the shooting and all the circumstances around it an unmitigated tragedy.

“I’m a white man in America. I get that, and I understand that there is racism and I understand that there is profiling and we’ve got our issues,” he said. “But at the end of the day, if Mr. Semer would have stepped out of the car, if he just would have complied … he might have got … a notice to appear (in court).”

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A high school classmate of the slain man talks about how the shooting impacted him.
LAMAUR STANCIL/TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS

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The grand jury decision was made public on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2016.
NICHOLAS SAMUEL/TREASURE COAST NEWSPAPERS

Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/crime/st-lucie-county/2016/09/20/demarcus-semer-shooting-grand-jury-wont-indict-police-officers-fort-pierce/90727932/

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High School Football: Fort Pierce Westwood vs. Treasure Coast

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Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/picture-gallery/sports/high-school/football/2016/09/23/high-school-football-fort-pierce-westwood-vs-treasure-coast/90984440/

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Interfaith Coalition hopes to help fundraise for Fort Pierce Mosque …

It’s been almost two weeks now since the Fort Pierce mosque was set on fire. However, through the pain and anguish, we’ve also seen a community come together.

“With the sadness and everything else this makes you feel like there is hope,” said Hasan Ali who attends the mosque.

Thursday, Ali joined dozens of others who all have a common goal: to break down barriers and stop the hatred.

“This interfaith thing is what it’s all about, the hope for bringing people together,” said Ali.

It was the first meeting for the Interfaith Coalition of the Treasure Coast, a newly formed organization that brings people together with different religious beliefs and backgrounds.

“I was concerned about the visceral language going on on a national stage against people of different faith,” said Linda Green, who co-founded the organization with her friend Roberta Scott.

At the top of the group’s agenda is to hold fundraisers help rebuild the mosque that is now at the center of a hate crime and arson investigation.

The coalition is also looking into planning an interfaith peace service along with interfaith educational activities.

The group will meet again in November and invites anyone interested in joining the organization.

Article source: http://www.wptv.com/news/region-martin-county/stuart/interfaith-coalition-hopes-to-help-fundraise-for-fort-pierce-mosque

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Fort Pierce family seeks closure after death of Demarcus Semer

FORT PIERCE — Elijah Smith, the 79-year-old grandfather of Demarcus Semer, hopes in time their family can find closure.

“We’re just trying to move on, but it’s kind of hard remembering him and remembering what happened to him,” Smith said. “He shouldn’t be where he’s at now.”

Semer, 21, was fatally shot by Fort Pierce police officers during an April 23 traffic stop. A St. Lucie County grand jury decided Tuesday the actions of Officer Ralph Keith Holmes and Sgt. Brian MacNaught weren’t criminal.

Smith said his family doesn’t feel they’re getting justice for the loss of his grandson.

The family’s attorney, Lorenzo Williams, said earlier this week he expected by Friday to file with Fort Pierce a letter of intent to sue the city for wrongful death. By 5 p.m. Friday, the city hadn’t received a letter.

Williams said the Semer family is seeking $10 million. He’s in the process of reviewing all the documents released regarding the case, which include police, pathology, firearm and toxicology reports.

“We’ve got to put the case together and review reports to see whether it’s factual or not,” Williams said.

As Christians, Smith said, they’re trying to trust God will pass the final judgment.

“It’s hard, and I’m struggling with it,” Smith said, “but I’m trying to put my faith first.”

Semer’s mother and Smith’s stepdaughter, LaTrecia Middleton, has been staying with him and trying to find closure, Smith said.

“She’s doing the best that she can,” Smith said. “She’s taking it real hard. But we have to continue to go on and try to live.”

Middleton told detectives Semer was born in Tampa, according to court records released this week. She and Semer’s father, Beneche Semer, split up when their son was two weeks old. She said the father and son kept in touch.

Smith, who was born in Georgia and moved to Fort Pierce in 1959, said he was very close with his grandson. He and his wife helped Semer’s mom raise him after his father returned to Haiti, Smith said.

Semer’s mother told detectives Beneche Semer was extradited to Haiti, according to court documents, but it’s unclear why.

Smith remembered when his grandson was young and would have bad dreams, Semer would go into his grandfather’s bedroom, and they would sit up and talk.

As Semer grew up, he got into sports, especially basketball and football, Smith said. Semer was a Miami Dolphins fan, and he often would watch the first half of the game on Sunday with his grandparents before going to watch the second half with his friends, Smith said.

“When they were losing, I would always tease him,” Smith said. “We all had fun together.”

Smith described Semer as humble and not violent. Smith said Semer would call when he was out to let his family know where he was.

“He just grew up a normal child,” Smith said. “He was a good kid.”

When asked what needs to change after his grandson’s death, Smith said it comes down to the people in charge.

“Until we get some men and women as key players in the justice system — who got some backbone to stand up for the right, who don’t look at your skin color but look at the person,” Smith said, “everything is always going to be this way.”

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Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/crime/st-lucie-county/2016/09/23/fort-pierce-demarcus-semer-family-lawsuit-police-fatal-shooting-death/90781148/

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Interfaith Coalition hopes to help fundraise for Fort Pierce mosque

It’s been almost two weeks now since the Fort Pierce mosque was set on fire. However, through the pain and anguish, we’ve also seen a community come together.

“With the sadness and everything else this makes you feel like there is hope,” said Hasan Ali who attends the mosque.

Thursday, Ali joined dozens of others who all have a common goal: to break down barriers and stop the hatred.

“This interfaith thing is what it’s all about, the hope for bringing people together,” said Ali.

It was the first meeting for the Interfaith Coalition of the Treasure Coast, a newly formed organization that brings people together with different religious beliefs and backgrounds.

“I was concerned about the visceral language going on on a national stage against people of different faith,” said Linda Green, who co-founded the organization with her friend Roberta Scott.

At the top of the group’s agenda is to hold fundraisers help rebuild the mosque that is now at the center of a hate crime and arson investigation.

The coalition is also looking into planning an interfaith peace service along with interfaith educational activities.

The group will meet again in November and invites anyone interested in joining the organization.

Article source: http://www.wptv.com/news/region-martin-county/stuart/interfaith-coalition-hopes-to-help-fundraise-for-fort-pierce-mosque

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Hillary Clinton campaign to open Fort Pierce office

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Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/story/news/politics/elections/2016/09/22/hillary-clinton-fort-pierce/90828862/

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Fort Pierce Westwood, Okeechobee split dual meet

BOYS SWIMMING

FORT PIERCE WESTWOOD  103,
OKEECHOBEE 60

At Okeechobee Sports Complex

200 medley relay: 1. OK (McKee, Casian, Jackson, Collins) 2:12.75, 2. FPW (Zajac, Hannold, Walters, Brown) 2:16.19, 3. FPW (McKenzie, Laun-Wilson, Siders, Steffen) 2:39.22

200 freestyle: 1. Z. Jackson (OK) 2:14.66, 2. A. Guthrie (FPW) 2:44.72, 3. E. Currie (FPW) 2:58.09

200 individual medley: 1. J. McKee (OK) 2:49.10, 2. N. Guntow (FPW) 2:56.00, 3. A. Siders (FPW) 3:00.18

50 freestyle: 1. T. Pennella (FPW) 29.09, 2. C. Brown (FPW) 30.41, 3. D. Collins (OK) 31.12

Diving: Nonoe

100 butterfly: 1. Z. Jackson (OK) 1:16.44, 2. D. Laun-Wilson (FPW) 1:19.94, 3. D. Hannold (FPW) 1:36.56

100 freestyle: 1. V. Rappa (FPW) 1:06.50, 2. G. Steffen (FPW) 1:10.92, 3. M. McKenzie (FPW) 1:12.16

500 freestyle: 1. S. Casian (OK) 6:00.35, 2. N. Gunton (FPW) 7:15.25, 3. L. Gallarado (FPW) 7:48.03

200 freestyle relay: 1. OK (McKee, Collins, Casian, Jackson) 1:57.03, 2. FPW (Wallen-Beck, Zajac, Hannold, rappa) 2:11.50, 3. FPW (Laun-Wilson, Guthrie, Pannella, Siders) 2:13.28.

100 backstroke: 1. J. McKee (OK) 1:13.31, 2. M. McKenzie (FPW) 1:21.22, 3 .E. Currie (FPW) 1:39.43

100 breaststroke: 1. S. Casian (OK) 1:23.51, 2. J. Wallen-Beck 1:26.35, 3. N. Zajac 1:40.08

400 freestyle relay: 1. FPW (Guthrie, Gallarado, Brown, Walters) 4:51.38, 2. FPW (Guntow, McKenzie, Pennella, Steffen) 5:38.41

GIRLS SWIMMING

OKEECHOBEE 95,
FORT PIERCE WESTWOOD 77

At Okeechobee Sports Complex

200 medley relay: 1. OK (Kennedy, Trent, Bolan, Howard) 2:31.75, 2. OK (Scalf, Houle, Hendrix, Perez) 2:41.19, 3. FPW (Knoll, Currie, Jafors, Perry) 2:48.59

200 freestyle: 1. A. Howard (OK) 2:33.06, 2. H. Catlett (FPW) 2:35.12, 3. R. Hogge (FPW) 2:52.22

200 individual medley: 1. M. Bolan (OK) 2:59.22, 2. Hendrix (OK) 3:07.87, 3. P. Kelly (FPW) 3:11.41

50 freestyle: 1. C. Green (FPW) 33.37, 2. R. Hancock (OK) 33.78, 3. N. Mattevi (FPW) 35.54

Diving: None

100 butterfly: 1. M. Bolan (OK) 1:24.69, 2. P. Kelly (FPW) 1:32.18, 3. D. Currie (FPW) 1:41.63

100 freestyle: 1. A. Howard (OK) 1:05.00, 2. C. Green (FPW) 1:10.47, 3. E. Buchanan (FPW) 1:20.72

500 freestyle: 1. S. Hendrix (OK) 7:31.47, 2. M. Munao (FPW) 7:44.91, 3. E. Scalf (OK) 7:49.53

200 freestyle relay: 1. FPW (Lamb, Cattlet, Buchanan, Jafors) 2:20.32, 2. OK (Hancock, Dhillon, Merchant, Perez) 2:52.00, 3. FPW (Stachelek, Munao, Green, Hogge) 3:02.16

100 backstroke: 1. J. Kennedy (OK) 1:27.24, 2. A. Moreira (FPW) 1:37.53, 3.R. Hancock (OK) 1:41.22

100 breaststroke: 1. N. Mattevi (FPW) 1:30.62, 2. A. Trent (OK) 1:34.72, 3. K. Hoyle (OK) 1:39.60

400 freestyle relay: 1. OK (Howard, Kennedy, Hendrix, Bolan) 4:51.16, 2. FPW (Bolan, Sterling, Buchanan, Jafors) 5:24.50, 3. OK (Trent, Hoyle, Hancokc, Scalf) 5:44.38

Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/story/sports/high-school/swimming/2016/09/22/fort-pierce-westwood-okeechobee-split-dual-meet/90867702/

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Fort Pierce ministers call for peace in wake of Semer shooting ruling

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Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/picture-gallery/news/crime/st-lucie-county/2016/09/20/fort-pierce-ministers-call-for-peace-in-wake-of-semer-shooting-ruling/90757768/

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High school swimming meet at IRSC in Fort Pierce

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Article source: http://www.tcpalm.com/picture-gallery/sports/high-school/swimming/2016/09/21/high-school-swimming-meet-at-irsc-in-fort-pierce/90806476/

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