FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A witness to a standoff in Fort Lauderdale said she assumed police shot and killed a man who had barricaded himself in a pawn shop Sunday morning.
“I thought it was a gunshot. I heard the man scream, ‘uh,’ so that’s when I thought, ‘Oh my God, someone’s dead,’ ” Nicole Brown said.
While lethal force by police is, and has been, a controversial topic, police said armed and barricaded subject Ricardo Mathurin wasn’t shot dead. According to authorities, he had threatened a shootout with Fort Lauderdale police and reached into his waistband as he came out of the door of the Lucky Pawn and Jewelry Shop after he was coaxed out of the building by a negotiator.
Despite a slew of SWAT on the scene, Mathurin, 35, was stopped in his tracks by SWAT officers using “less-lethal munitions” or Kinetic Energy Impact Projectiles (KIPs), authorities said.
“To clarify the use of less lethal force, when the subject reached into his waistband, FLPD SWAT officers deployed a projectile to impair the subject’s ability to continue his dangerous behavior and safely gain his compliance. This type of less lethal force is utilized to take a non-compliant subject into custody while minimizing injury to them,” said Detective Ali Adamson of the FLPD.
Police said they were called out at 5:57 a.m. Sunday when an alarm was going off at the store at 3029 W. Davie Boulevard and a witness telling dispatch that there was a burglary in progress.
According to FLPD, they then received a call from a man who said he was inside the business and refused to come out. That’s when he also threatened a shootout with police.
FLPD negotiators were called to the scene as well as SWAT. Police said Mathurin eventually agreed to come out of the store. For a few moments, the situation was tense as Mathurin, who police said was armed, reached into his waistband.
While Adamson did not specifically address the exact munition that was used, the FLPD policy’s “less-lethal munitions,” (KIPs), are intended to incapacitate a subject with a minimal potential for causing death or serious physical injury, according to the policy notes. KIPs are often called rubber or plastic bullets.
The question? Why go for less lethal when there are so many situations where lethal force is used? Could it be that police tactics are changing?
Adamson said police have always had these tools, and that they have been around and utilized for a long time. She did not address a change in tactics, but said every situation is different.
“Situations are fluid. It’s not uniform across the board, but in this case, we were able to use the less-lethal munition to safely affect the arrest for both the subject and the officers,” she said.
The potential for causing death or serious physical injury still is a reality when less lethal force is used, according to the FLPD policy.
Adamson said Mathurin was taken to Broward Health Medical Center as a precaution to make sure that he had no injuries as a result of the use of the projectile, and, after being checked out would be transported to Broward County’s main jail.
He was later booked in the main county jail where he is facing four counts of resisting an officer/obstruct without violence and four counts of armed burglary.
“Our priority is to preserve life,” Adamson said. “We will always try and exhaust the means and that’s why these weapons exist. This type of less-lethal weapon allows us to minimize injury. We would prefer for a situation to end when we are able to utilize this in the right type of situation.”
In May, during protests in Fort Lauderdale after the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, rubber bullets were used to disperse protesters. In one instance, a protester in Fort Lauderdale was injured after being shot in the face by a rubber bullet. The policy does instruct the officer deploying the less-lethal weapon to not aim at the “head, throat, face, or groin area.”
Where Mathurin was struck was not released.