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The family of a 29-year-old suspected drug dealer, who was shot and killed by Tampa police officers is filing a lawsuit, saying officers should have never been at his residence in the first place.
Jason Westcott was killed in May, 2014 when officers raided his house and said he brandished a weapon, forcing them to fire.
His family also said Jason was not a 'dealer,' rather, sold marijuana to a couple of close friends on occasion. Police said a confidential informant told them he was selling drugs, but the family claims that informant was coerced by police.
The memories of the night in May of 2014, when everything changed for Israel Reyes, never leave his mind.
"My feet being pulled off the couch, being thrown onto the ground... seconds later, five gunshots," Reyes recalled.
Patti Silliman and Reyes, her boyfriend, are suing Tampa Police for battery and negligence.
"Jason should be here right now," Sillimans said Wednesday, sitting in attorney TJ Grimaldi's office.
Grimaldi said the 2014 raid on his clients' home on W. Knollwood St. was unnecessary.
"[They were taking down] a huge drug dealer, and I use that with extreme sarcasm," Grimaldi said.
Silliman and Reyes allege Tampa police relied solely on the word of a confidential informant who was trying to impress them to get paid. They say the informant was coerced by officers to make it sound like Westcott and Reyes were moving more weight than they were.
They added, police acted on, at most, $240 worth of sales to the informant over four buys, and their own surveillance would have revealed a more typical arrest would have sufficed.
"If you are entering a home based on shoddy police work, and not following up, you shouldn't even be there," Grimaldi said. "If you shouldn't be there, you shouldn't be in the home to put yourself into position, to have to fire a gun."
The suit admits police likely brought a SWAT team because they knew Jason owned a gun. However, they said claims Westcott pointed his gun it at them do not match his wounds, nor do they agree Westcott knew it was police who came in.
The family hopes the suit drives TPD to make body cameras mandatory.
"So that, if what they say is accurate, they can back themselves up," said Grimaldi. "It doesn't just protect the citizens, it protects the police force."
The damages sought were unspecified.
"If it was vice versa, and I was the one in his shoes right now," said Reyes. "I know he would be right in front of the cameras doing the same thing for me."
As is typical anytime a government agency gets sued, Tampa police said they do not comment on pending litigation.
The family said it is planning a memorial for Westcott in Oldsmar to mark two years since his death.
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