South St. Pete activists claim brutality on part of St. Pete & Pinellas County officers

  • Debbie Newkirk claims her brother can't get the medical treatment he needs in a Pinellas County jail.

At a news conference in South St. Petersburg's Silver Lake Park this afternoon, the family of 32-year-old Anthony Newkirk claimed that he is being denied medical treatment in a Pinellas County jail for wounds he suffered after being shot six times by an officer with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. The incident occurred earlier this month in Largo.

On Nov. 1, Newkirk was shot six times by Deputy Bill Hartigan in the parking lot of the Suburban Lodge Motel on Ulmerton Road. Pinellas County sheriff deputies claim that Newkirk refused to exit his vehicle and appeared to be reaching for a weapon. They later said Newkirk possessed "multiple firearms," and charged him with setting up an illegal gun deal.

Debbie Newkirk, the sister of Anthony, disputed the charge that her brother sold guns. She said that because two of the bullets hit Anthony in the mouth that his jaw is now wired shut, preventing him from eating. And she charged that he's not getting proper medical care, saying he has an infection in one of his shoulder blades and in his chest. She said that she got a call yesterday that her brother is leaking pus from his chest wounds, and the family is concerned that he will contract MRSA.

"The nurses are telling him to wash his own wounds with soap and water," Debbie Newkirk alleges.

"That's not medical treatment. That's a disgrace," noted Chimurenga Waller, a member of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, who organized the press conference.

A spokesperson for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office denied the accusations were true.

"He's being treated for his wounds by medical staff," spokesperson Cecilia Barreda told CL early Thursday evening. Baretta said that Newkirk was on a special diet. "The bottom line is he's receiving all the medical care he needs," she said.

The Newkirk case was one of three recent incidents mentioned at Thursday's news conference. The second involves Jernorris Green, who claims he was beaten and arrested by St. Petersburg Police on Fri., Nov. 8 in Silver Lake Park after he says he came to the aid of black teenager.

"The officer told me I'm obstructing justice … as I tried to leave, he said I can't go nowhere. I said 'Sir, why I can't go nowhere?" He says the officer told him to stay, so he sat down. He said he asked the officer if he was under arrest. Told that he wasn't, Green said he got up. That's when he said the officer tackled him to the ground.

The third involved Uhuru Movement President Diop Olugbala, who was arrested on Sept. 25 on charges of obstruction, after he said he was stopped and detained by a St. Pete police officer without cause while riding a bicycle. He said the arrests of himself, Newkirk and Green demonstrate a serious problem with the St. Petersburg and Pinellas County police agencies.

Although issues regarding police treatment of suspects was not an issue in the recently concluded mayoral campaign, the controversial car chase policy was. Rick Kriseman said he would tighten up the policy from what Bill Foster and Chuck Harmon have done in recent years. CL asked if the fact that there's a new mayor and soon to be new police chief (Harmon is about to retire) might prompt them to reach out to Kriseman to address their concerns?

Waller says the Uhuru's have collected more than a thousand signatures on a petition to end the chase policy in St. Pete. "We don't want to see a chase policy that's 'nicer' than the one we just had. We want an end to these chases in the African community … they don't do it in the white community."

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