Community Responds to Officer’s Firing
By C. Scott Satterwhite
Three months after the shooting death of Tymar Crawford, the Pensacola Police Department announced the termination of Daniel Siemen—the officer who shot Crawford to death in front of his home on July 5.
The original incident took place after Crawford was returning from a funeral. Pensacola police officers attempted to stop Crawford after stating that they smelled marijuana smoke coming from his car. After what was described as a “slow pursuit,” Crawford eventually stopped his vehicle. Police allege he resisted arrest, but eyewitness accounts offer different versions of events.
Crawford’s partner, Kimberly Henderson, witnessed the shooting and said Crawford was holding his hands up when an officer started punching him.
Pensacola Police Department spokesperson Mike Wood told WEAR-TV 3 that Crawford attempted to “disarm one of the officers by taking his taser, and shots were fired shortly thereafter.” A request for clarification of whether or not Crawford was being tased at the time has not been returned as of this writing.
A cell phone video taken by yet another witness shows evidence of a struggle and people screaming, followed by the sound of several gunshots.
Sarah Brummet, a neighbor of Crawford, was outside of her home with her children when the incident took place.
“I was outside in my neighbor’s yard when Tymar was killed,” said Brummet.
“When I heard the gun go off, just a couple hundred feet away, I ran,” she said. “I heard shot after shot. I didn’t know who was shooting or in what direction, and I made my kids get down and get to the safest room in the house. Later, I found out that the cops had killed my neighbor in his yard.”
Last month, the Pensacola Police Department released the name of Officer Daniel Siemen as the man who shot and killed Crawford. As per policy, the police immediately opened an internal investigation on the shooting.
One of the results of their investigation was the firing of Officer Siemen.
Officer terminations after a deadly shooting are incredibly rare. When asked if he was aware of any similar instances in the Pensacola Police Department, Officer Wood said that he was “not aware of” any other incidents.
The PPD’s announcement of Siemen’s termination initially came in a press release dated Thursday, Oct. 3.
“We work hard to develop and maintain trust in our officers by all members of our community, and if an officer violates that trust, we take appropriate action,” said Police Chief Tommi Lyter in a statement to the press. “We want residents to know that this incident is not reflective of the training, policies, procedures or culture of the Pensacola Police Department.”
The Pensacola Police Department has yet to disclose the specifics about how Officer Siemen violated the department’s policy concerning use of lethal force. Unrelated to the PPD investigation was State Attorney Bill Eddins’ announcement last month that his office would investigate the shooting and present its findings to the Escambia County Grand Jury, a process expected to take 60 days. Once the grand jury decides whether or not to issue an indictment, Eddins said video footage of the incident would be released to the public.
Ieshia Williams, an organizer with the civil rights organization Dream Defenders, said that she was surprised “to an extent” when she learned of Siemen’s termination. “I figured it would happen, but I wasn’t sure it would happen in this time frame.”
Besides attending several meetings with city government and holding a “People’s Assembly” town hall meeting in Crawford’s neighborhood, Dream Defenders helped lead two marches. In both July and August, hundreds of people took to the streets and rallied in front of the police headquarters sharing the demands of the family.
One of the key demands put upon the city was the firing of the police officer involved in the shooting. Organizers with Dream Defenders see this first step as a victory.
“They could’ve easily ignored the fact that there were protests going on,” said Williams. “And I think they likely wanted to ignore it, but they knew that Daniel Siemen really screwed up.”
Williams said that she is certain that the protests ultimately influenced the decision to terminate the officer who killed Crawford.
“The pressure that was put on them meant that they couldn’t sweep it under the rug and ignore it. As much as they might’ve wanted to ignore what had happened, they couldn’t,” she said. “Us showing up to not only the police station but [also] showing up at city meetings made it very clear that we’re not going anywhere.”
Traveling at the time of the announcement, Haley Morrissette heard the news through social media. Morrissette immediately described herself as feeling emotional. “The Pensacola Police Department did the right thing in firing Daniel Siemen. Now the family can rest better tonight.”
Morrissette leads the local chapter of Dream Defenders, whose stated goal is to “make powerful change come to Florida.” Morrissette hopes that, with this announcement, “the community can understand that together, radical change can happen in the city of Pensacola.”
“We look forward to what moves Bill Eddins will make, as well as Mayor Grover Robinson, because we still have many demands that need to be met in order for there to be complete restoration and justice.”
Among the demands, created by the family, are “deprioritizing low-level arrestable offenses,” quarterly anti-racist training, restitution to the family and “establishment of an all-community police accountability board.”
Williams stated, “The rest of our demands need to be met. We absolutely need a police oversight committee. We’re very intentional with what we’re doing, and we have all the motivation in the world to stay in this fight.”
Word of the PPD announcement spread through Crawford’s community quickly. Like Morrissette, Brummet said that she too was “overwhelmed with emotion.”
“I had to fight back tears at work,” she said after she heard the news of Officer Siemen’s termination from the PPD.
Like many members of her neighborhood, Brummet joined the marches and saw the announcement as a vindication. “I am proud that we were able to ensure that Daniel Siemen is no longer able to hide behind his badge and a uniform,” she said. “I am hopeful that Tymar Crawford’s family will see even more of their demands met and that one day justice will be truly served.”
For her and many members of Dream Defenders, Williams saw the shooting as very personal. “This is more about the fact that we all see ourselves in the people we’re supporting more than anything else,” she said. “We know that this easily could’ve been any of us, and could be any of us.”
While thinking broadly, Williams’ immediate concern was for Crawford’s family. “I want for them to be able to find the joy in their lives that they deserve. I want for them to be able to feel at peace, as much as they possibly can, especially because of what happened,” she said. “I want for them to be able to know that they don’t have to worry about this sort of thing anymore.”
As she advocates for the family, Williams is also hopeful that the work of Dream Defenders will ultimately lead to a safer community. “My hope is that what happens with the city’s response makes it possible that they genuinely trust that this isn’t a concern anymore, that what happened will never happen again.”