LAKE COUNTY, Fla. – A Lake County deputy who shot an unarmed woman while on the job has been indicted on federal charges he used unreasonable force and made false statements to investigators, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The indictment of Lake County Sheriff's Office Deputy Richard Palmer, 58, was announced Wednesday, nearly three years after the Oct. 11, 2016 shooting.
Deputies said Palmer was driving in Paisley around 12:20 a.m. when he saw Robin Pearson run a stop sign but when he went to pull her over, she attempted to flee. At some point, she stopped her vehicle, got out and began approaching the deputy, records show.
"The deputy is giving her verbal commands to 'Step back. Get back in your car,' she did not comply. She started reaching to her pocket at which time the deputy, based on what he said, was in fear for his life and that's when he shot her," Lake County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Fred Jones said in 2016.
A report said Pearson was reaching into her pocket for a cellphone when Palmer fired multiple rounds. However, DOJ officials said Pearson's hands were visible and empty.
"Palmer later misled investigators by falsely justifying the shooting, claiming that the woman’s left hand was in her pocket, that the woman was pulling her left hand out of her pocket, and that he saw a dark object in her left hand," they wrote in a news release.
Details about how investigators determined Palmer's statements were inaccurate were not immediately available.
He's facing charges of using unreasonable force and making false statements. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted on the first charge and 20 years for the second.
Palmer was placed on administrative leave after the shooting, which is standard procedure.
Pearson was taken to an area hospital in stable condition.
The Lake County Sheriff's Office issued a statement about the indictment.
"Deputy Sheriff Richard Palmer was involved in a shooting that occurred during a traffic stop while on duty in October 2016. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated the shooting and upon forwarding their report to the State Attorney’s Office, a grand jury was convened. Deputy Palmer was cleared by the grand jury.
"A subsequent federal investigation into a potential civil rights violation began shortly thereafter, at which time Deputy Palmer was placed back on administrative leave.
"Deputy Palmer resigned from the Sheriff’s Office today after learning of the indictment by the U.S. Department of Justice.
"The Sheriff’s Office has fully cooperated with all entities involved in the various stages of the investigations and proceedings related to this event and will continue to do so."