Tampa Police Chief Dugan says protesters ‘ambushed’ officers, but residents argue it was just a weekly party cops ignored

Basically, he's either lying or he has no idea what his own cops are doing.

click to enlarge Tampa Police Chief Dugan says protesters ‘ambushed’ officers, but residents argue it was just a weekly party cops ignored
Screen grab via Fox News

This morning, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan went on "Fox & Friends" to argue that his department “can’t win” against protesters, by discussing a completely unrelated incident that had nothing to do with the recent Black Lives Matter movement.

Speaking to the hosts, Dugan discussed what he calls an “ambush” that occurred last Saturday, at the intersection of N. 15th Street and E. 26th Avenue in Tampa’s V.M. Ybor neighborhood, explaining that officers had bottles thrown at them while responding to a potential shooting. 

“This incident, we actually sent nine officers and it was clearly just a setup to get the cops there and then surround them,” said Dugan, while aerial footage of the incident played on another screen. “But this is what we're dealing with, are these block parties or they demonstrations? You know, what are they?” 

When asked if this was an organized event, Dugan flat out says he doesn’t know.

“You know, that’s what’s difficult to tell,” admits Dugan. “That’s where we’re running into problems is what’s organized, what’s a protest, what’s a block party. But it was clearly a setup, there was no shooting, there was no evidence of a shooting and there was no one down in the street.”

Dugan—who's served as a detective—has yet to explain why he thinks this scenario is a setup, or why he insists on resting this particular event to the recent organized Black Lives Matter protests. 

Creative Loafing Tampa Bay reached out to the Tampa Police Department for comment. Public Information Officer Jamel Laneè, told CL, “Chief Dugan has already provided his comments regarding this event.”

What Dugan fails to mention in this interview is that residents say this “ambush” is actually a weekly block party that has occurred at the same Tampa intersection. Residents of V.M. Ybor also say they've already filed complaints about it for months. 

A resident who wished to remain anonymous because of "what they did to that poor woman in the traffic stop," told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay that TPD has been well aware of the crowds that gather there, and that people who’ve complained say TPD won’t do anything about it. 

“It was no ambush, it was months of neglect,” said the resident. “Plus, nobody is ambushing anyone, it’s just people getting drunk at a party.” The resident then added that there's a general feeling of neglect by the police in this neighborhood. 

Members of the V.M. Ybor Facebook group also say they’ve complained to TPD about the weekly party, with one complaint going back as far as January 10.

“I called seven times last night. And I’m much further away from you,” says one resident in a comment. “I asked the officers to come by my house so I could talk to them and they could hear the noise level. Three different officers stopped by. Then drove done and apparently didn’t do anything.” 

CL sent another email to Leneé asking if "police responded to any noise complaints at 26th and 15th? Specifically, was there a call on Jan 10, 2020."

Leneé confirmed that TPD went to the location twice on January 10 for "loud music complaints."

Of course, none of this was brought up during Dugan’s "Fox & Friends" interview, and it certainly didn’t stop him from using the weekly party as prop to argue that he “can’t win,” against Black Lives Matter protesters.

“If we show up and take action, we’re heavy handed, it’s excessive force,” said Dugan, while literally showing footage of the Ybor “ambush” in the background. “But these peaceful protests, these demonstrations they turn on a dime and they can turn on the cops very quickly and then it just becomes difficult.” 

Dugan then went into a tangent about how Tampa’s “local prosecutor,” which is presumably a reference to District Attorney Andrew H. Warren, isn’t being truthful by referring to protesters as “peaceful demonstrations.”

“Then we have our local prosecutor, who is calling demonstrations,” says Dugan. “They're just exercising their First Amendment rights and these are peaceful demonstrations, and they’re not depicting the whole story. They’re leaving the portions out that fit their narrative. And you know, we’ve had police cars with smashed windows and things like that, we’ve had looting, defacing property and it’s just not getting out there and I think we’re running into a situation in this country where people are now so afraid that they’re going to lose their job they they’re not doing their job.” 

In classic Dugan style, he ended this dumpster fire of an interview by telling the Fox & Friends audience that Tampa cops “won’t kneel.” 

“You know, cops bounce back. We’re not going to take a knee, we’re going to stand up. We’re going to defend our city. We’re the guardians of the city, and we have no intentions to hand over the key to the city to these protesters, who frankly aren’t always peaceful.”  

Criticism towards Dugan has amplified tremendously over the past couple weeks, specifically after the Tampa police chief told a packed Citizen Review Board that “it was sad that George Floyd had to get murdered before anyone would come to these meetings.” Protesters also say he only briefly spoke at the meeting and thumbed through his phone while presenters confronted him. 

Yesterday, protesters gathered in downtown Tampa’s Curtis Hixon Park, calling for the Mayor Jane Castor to remove Police Chief Brian Dugan of his duties, and another event is scheduled for Sat June 27, at 4 p.m. at 702 S. Albany Ave.

There’s also an online petition calling for Tampa Mayor Jane Castor to fire Dugan, which currently has nearly 1,000 signatures. 

So far, Castor has been silent on the recent calls to remove Dugan. However, Tampa Marketing and Communications Director Ashley Bauman sent over the following statement to CL: 

“The egregious murder of George Floyd led to some very passionate and necessary conversations across the country including right here in the City of Tampa. Our nation is hurting and it’s up to our community to come together to create tangible action on a number of fronts. And while tensions are high, we must work collectively to unite as a city and uplift all of our neighborhoods by listening to those most affected by this social injustice.”

UPDATED: 06/25/20 3 p.m. Updated to include additional comments from TPD.

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About The Author

Colin Wolf

Colin Wolf has been working with weekly newspapers since 2007 and has been the Digital Editor for Creative Loafing Tampa since 2019. He is also the Director of Digital Content Strategy for CL's parent company, Euclid Media Group.
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