The officer who fatally shot a 16-year-old boy outside a school dance Saturday had less than a month's experience patrolling the streets on his own, according to information released by officials Monday. Officer Darren Cogoni, 23, was hired by the Police Department in March. He was placed on administrative leave after the Saturday night shooting of Jerrod Miller on the campus of the Delray Full Service Center, a school for students with behavioral problems. Officials said Miller drove onto the campus after being approached by the officer. A police spokesman said the teen, Jerrod Miller, 16, was driving erratically near where about 20 students stood outside at a school dance for students 12-16 years old. Jerrod Miller had dropped some friends off at the dance but returned a while later. An officer stopped him at a gate the the school's parking lot and asked for his drivers license, but Miller drove off. Shortly later, as many as three shots were fired, according to witnesses.
Witness Contradicts Police Account
A witness, Alonzo Robert Smith said that he stood by the passenger-side door of Miller's car, about to get in, when he saw an officer ask Miller for his license. According to 17-year-old Smith, the shooting unfolded like this: Miller did not respond to the officer's request for his license. The officer calmly asked Miller twice to get out of the car. The officer then stepped back and "looked like he was going to grab his gun." Miller then drove forward into a courtyard in front of the school's gym. Four or five girls were standing nearby on the gym steps. Two police officers chased the car, one with his gun drawn. Smith said Miller's Cadillac Sedan DeVille and the police rounded a corner, and then he heard three shots fired. Smith did not see the officer fire or where.Smith told reporters Sunday that Cogoni chased after Miller's Cadillac with his gun drawn. He said students were congregated on the gym steps, but that Miller, who had turned the corner across a grassy plot and down the walkway, "wasn't going toward anybody." The Police Department's policy on use of force prohibits officers from firing at a moving vehicle "unless they reasonably believe" that the action "is necessary to defend themselves or another from death or serious injury." According to state records, Miller did not have a driver license and he had no criminal record. "This case is not just going to be thrown away," said Charles Cornelius, Miller's uncle, as he bleakly traced the tire marks. "Jerrod's voice will be heard." [more] and[more] and [more]