At 2:45 a.m. on October 14, 2021, three officers showed up at the home of Calvin Wilks Jr. The encounter ended with the death of 40-year-old Wilks and now, three manslaughter charges against the officers who were there.
What happened, and how will the case make it through two types of court systems?
What Led to the Stun Gun Discharge?
On October 14, 2021, police say they received a call from a resident who heard shouts coming from her neighbor’s residence around 2:45 a.m. The resident said she thought she heard a woman yell, “Please stop.”
When police arrived, Wilks answered the door and was initially cooperative, but then he closed the door and refused to open it. After about five minutes, police say Wilks opened the door again and was in a “highly agitated state.” He told police the woman who lived at the residence was in the parking lot, but police could not locate her.
According to the Tampa Bay Times, Police said Wilks continued to act out. In a news release, police said, “Mr. Wilks continued to act aggressive and made several attempts to close the door on an officer’s foot, slamming it several times. Officers attempted to deescalate Mr. Wilks’ aggressive behavior. After receiving no cooperation from Mr. Wilks, officers attempted to detain Mr. Wilks who became combative, and physically resisted by pulling away and kicking the detaining officers. During the incident, Mr. Wilks was tased in the hip, and eventually officers were able to restrain him.”
Wilks was unresponsive after being tased.
Police said they called emergency medical services because they thought Wilks was on drugs. An ambulance arrived and took Wilks to a hospital, where he died the next day.
What Led to Charges Against the Police Officers?
On June 7, 2022, a grand jury in Okaloosa County, Florida, examined the evidence surrounding the death of Wilks and charged the three Crestview Florida police officers: Brandon Hardaway, William Johns, and Evan Reynolds with manslaughter.
Wilks’ death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, and there is 45 minutes of body cam footage from the incident. It is reported that Wilks was shot with stun guns at least five times, and Wilks’ family says body cam footage shows police watching Wilks struggle without offering aid, according to Yahoo! News.
After the charges were made, State Attorney Ginger Bowden Madden said in a news release, “Let us understand that our law enforcement officers face a difficult job every day; however, the sanctity of a life must never be unjustifiably compromised.”
Now, the police officers may face both criminal manslaughter charges and civil wrongful death charges.
What Are the Criminal Charges?
Manslaughter is a type of criminal charge that is less serious than a murder charge, but it still carries heavy potential consequences. Defined under Florida Statute 782.07, manslaughter refers to cases where the defendant’s actions led to a death, but the actions were not premeditated or planned. Unlike a murder charge, there is no premeditation to kill in a manslaughter charge.
The consequences of manslaughter conviction in Florida may be up to:
- 15 years in prison
- 15 years of probation
- $10,000 fine
The Crestview Police Department says the officers are suspended pending the outcome of the criminal case. All three men were indicted and released on a $10,000 bond. They are set to appear in court on July 7, 2022.
What Are the Potential Civil Charges?
In addition to criminal manslaughter charges, the police officers are now facing potential civil wrongful death charges.
According to Yahoo! News, Bart Fleet, the personal representative of the estate of Calvin Wilks, has appointed Crestview lawyer Gillis E. Powell to represent the estate in a wrongful death action.
Wilks’ family plans to sue for wrongful death. To win, they will need to prove:
- Wilks’ death was the result of negligence or maliciousness of an at-fault party
- Wilks’ death led to financial and/or emotional damages for his surviving family
At this time, it isn’t clear if the family plans to sue the officers, the police department, and/or any other parties.
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