TAMPA — A local real estate agent who was shot by police in January after he threatened to commit suicide is suing the city and the police officer who fired the gun, records show.
Jason Turk, an 11-year Navy veteran and student at the University of Tampa, was shot twice in the face after he pointed a gun at police officers on Jan. 9, authorities said. Turk’s estranged wife, Amanda Turk, had called 911 and told dispatchers that her husband was threatening to kill himself.
When police arrived at Turk’s home in Tampa Heights, they found him sitting in his BMW in the driveway, investigators said. Police said Turk rolled down his window and displayed a gun as officers were talking to him, prompting officer Timothy Bergman to shoot. Bergman fired again after Turk aimed his gun a second time, police said.
The Turks and their lawyer say in the lawsuit Turk never pointed his gun at the officers. They also allege that Bergman, a K-9 officer, was not trained in crisis intervention.
The Turks say the officer’s use of excessive police force caused Turk to suffer physical pain, mental anguish and disfigurement.
“The suit is about law enforcement being accountable,” said Michael Maddux, the Turks’ lawyer. “They had a cry for help and the response was tactical, almost like he was committing a crime.”
The Turks’ marriage began deteriorating in late 2013, according to the lawsuit. Earlier in 2013, Turk was injured after he was hit by a car while riding his bike. He had been depressed for a while, the lawsuit states, and had been admitted to the VA Hospital under the Baker Act in November.
On Jan. 9, Turk, 37, had a glass of Crown Royal and videotaped himself reading his suicide letter and sent it to his wife, records show. Amanda Turk, who was living with the couple’s two daughters in Valrico at the time, called 911 and said her husband was threatening to shoot himself.
She told dispatchers that he was mentally ill and had a weapon, the lawsuit states. She also said he had expressed in the past that he “doesn’t have the nerve” to pull the trigger himself but knew that the cops would shoot if he didn’t put a gun down.
According to the lawsuit, Turk took a photo of himself with his iPhone after he had been shot and texted it to his wife saying, “It’s over!”
Police said Turk aimed a loaded gun at the officers and refused to put it down when they ordered him to, forcing Bergman to fire his weapon, said police spokeswoman Andrea Davis. She declined to comment on the lawsuit.
In June, the State Attorney’s Office determined the shooting was justified, records show.
State Attorney Mark Ober ruled the case an attempted suicide by proxy, saying Turk knew the officer would have no choice but to fire his weapon if he refused to put his own gun down.
No charges were filed against Turk, records show.