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Friends and family react after police kill teen | Crime

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Friends and family react after police kill teen
Crime, News, People
Friends and family react after police kill teen

St. Petersburg, Florida - Friends and family say they're stunned after a popular 18-year-old who was having a few beers with a buddy was shot and killed by a St. Petersburg police officer.

But St. Petersburg police say Jared Speakman was armed with a gun and struggled to hand it over.

Candice Cuoco has grown up with Speakman. They attended elementary, middle and high school together. She says she's know him since she was five. Candice says, "Jared would never do something like that - ever."

Candice's mother Susan says Jared was like a son to her. "It doesn't make sense whatsoever. Drinking I can understand... kids go through that phase, but having a gun, that just totally blows my mind."

Speakman's uncle, Mark Johnston, says the teen dropped out of Boca Ciega High school last year and was working on his GED. Friends say Speakman dreamed of one day becoming a rapper and they called him "J-Speak."

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But Speakman's dreams of becoming an artist changed after St. Petersburg Patrol Officer, Michael Weiskopf, spotted a suspicious car in a city park which closes after dark. It was around 1:40 in the morning on Monday. Officer Weiskopf called for back up. 

When two other officers arrived, they say they found Speakman and another man sitting on a bench along the waterfront of Boca Ciega Bay. The officers questioned the men, but say Speakman questioned their authority to detain them. That's when one Officer attempted to pat Speakman down.

St. Petersburg Police spokesman Bill Proffitt says, "The officer felt the revolver in the man's pocket - at that point a struggle ensued."

Proffitt says one of the back up officers, Ruben DeJesus, spotted a .22 caliber gun sticking out of Speakman's pants. They struggled over the gun until Officer DeJesus shot Speakman several times, killing him.

At Speakman's home Monday afternoon, there was a constant crowd of friends and family. Many remembered the happy times but some say they can't stop wondering why he was armed.

Johnston says, "We don't even know where he got a gun. He's only 18. His uncle is a sheriff's officer, or was a sheriff's officer. He knows better than to carry a gun around, to fight with police or anything."

Susan Cuoco adds, "I hope everybody gets to the bottom of this. I really do, because there's no need to have an 18-year-old lose their life over something stupid like this."

None of the officers involved were hurt. Officer Ruben DeJesus  has been on the force for 25 years. He's on paid administrative leave right now which the police department is standard in these types of cases.

The St. Petersburg Police Department and the Pinellas/Pasco State Attorney's Office are both conducting a criminal investigation into the shooting.

When the criminal investigations are complete, Pinellas/Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe will release his findings. Also, the St. Petersburg Police Department's Internal Affairs Division is conducting an administrative investigation to determine if there were any violations of Department policy.  

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