October 25, 1996 in Nation/World

Crowd Sets Fire To Businesses, Vehicles After Police Shoot, Kill Motorist

Associated Press

A rock- and bottle-throwing crowd of several hundred people set fire to businesses and vehicles after police fatally shot a man during a traffic stop Thursday evening. At least 11 people were injured, including several officers.

The riot involved more than 200 people and continued to rage late Thursday night even as more than 130 officers carrying plastic shields and other riot gear barricaded streets to contain the violence.

Several buildings were burning out of control as the violence kept firefighters away, and thick black smoke clouded the predominantly black area several blocks south of downtown. Groups of youths ran back and forth in the night, aiming at the officers as well as businesses and passing cars.

“It’s just utter chaos,” said a police dispatcher who refused to be identified. “We have officers injured, quite a few of them.”

Three hospitals near downtown treated and released 11 people with minor injuries, including two police officers. A dispatcher said one officer was shot in the arm, but the wound wasn’t serious.

The shooting that sparked the violence happened after two officers stopped a car with two people inside about 5:30 p.m., Tampa television station WTVT reported. The car lurched forward, hitting one of the officers, and the officers opened fire, striking the driver of the car, the station reported.

The unidentified man died before reaching Bayfront Medical Center, a hospital spokesman said.

Hundreds of people in the neighborhood began shouting and throwing things at police, and their rage boiled over into more widespread violence after darkness fell several hours later. Some families were caught in the middle as they tried to find a safe place to flee.

“Where the big mistake was when the police put the riot gear on,” said one area businessman who asked not to be identified. “That’s when all hell broke loose. As soon as it got dark that’s when all hell broke loose.”

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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