ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — At ABC Action News it’s normally not our policy to name minors who are charged with crimes, but when it comes to 17-year-old Christopher Tonsel, his mom Catherine Jones, says she wants people to know her son’s name and face.
“Out of all this, I just pray that justice is served,” said Jones.
Tonsel is currently facing several felony charges for carrying a gun as a minor and for aggravated assault on a police officer.
Those charges are connected to this incident on October 20, 2021.
St. Petersburg police were called to Wildwood Park that day after witnesses claim they saw Tonsel hit a girl and point a gun at her.
Police say the teen later pointed that gun at K9 officer Leighton Williams after being chased.
Officer Williams then shot Tonsel.
“You gave him so many commands that he couldn’t even follow the first one,” said Jones, “His eyes opened [wide], he was terrified.”
The Pinellas County Use of Deadly Force Taskforce investigated the shooting. The Pinellas County Sheriff, Bob Gualtieri, sent a letter to the St. Petersburg Police Department on behalf of the taskforce. In it, he called the shooting “lawful.”
But based on recently released bodycam footage, Jones disagrees.
“How is it justified, if he never pointed a gun at you?” she said.
She also says the officer shouldn’t have used his gun in this case.
“Isn’t your taser right there? You have a dog. How could you fear for your life,” she said.
Jones is now calling for officer Williams to either step down or be fired.
And she says her son shouldn’t be facing any charges in this case.
In the meantime, Jones tells ABC Action News that her son is struggling to recover from internal injuries after the shooting
“His pancreas is, they had to take out a piece of that. His lung was damaged, three rib bones and a piece of his liver was cut out because it was damaged,” she said.
The St. Petersburg Police Department released the following statement:
The Pinellas County Use of Deadly Force Taskforce completed its investigation and concluded that the Officer’s actions were lawful and proper under the circumstances. Now the St. Petersburg Police Department Office of Professional Standards has opened its investigation into whether the Officer followed Dept. policies and procedures.
SheriffLetter on Tonsel by ABC Action News on Scribd