Jason Westcott was 29 years old when the Tampa SWAT team entered his home and killed him on March 27, 2014. He wasn’t a hardcore criminal, just a recreational pot smoker who occasionally sold to his friends – now he’s dead. And all because the Tampa Police Department’s narcotics division executed a raid based on only information from a shady confidential informant.
The SWAT team entered Westcott’s home in the middle of the night through an unlocked door and found his boyfriend, Izzy Reyes, sleeping on the sofa. They threw him to the floor and continued through the home.
They found Jason in his bedroom, dressed only in boxers with a loaded gun. Jason pointed the gun at the masked officers and that’s when they shot him. One bullet went through his liver and another destroyed his arm.
A subsequent search of the house turned up a whopping $2 worth of marijuana.
The police really caught a big fish (insert lots of sarcasm).
The informant, Ronnie Coogle, walked into the Tampa Bay Times newspaper office last July and told reporters all about his involvement in the death of Westcott.
Coogle has a long history of lying and admits that he’s not to be trusted. He even admits to using money given to him by the police to purchase drugs for himself.
Coogle’s own brother calls him the scum of the earth:
“He’s just the scum of the f—— earth. I hate to say that. I hate to cuss. But it’s the truth,” said his brother, Mike Coogle. “He is nobody to give information about nothing to nobody, because everything that comes out of his mouth is a lie.”
Coogle says he lied to the police and told them that Westcott and Reyes were drug traffickers. He said his lies were easy because the police did not require him to wear a wire. They just took everything at face value.
So why did police just take his words and not bother with any other investigating?
Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor cited the $2 worth of marijuana and the handgun recovered during the search as proof that Coogle was telling the truth.
“The information that he gave to us for the authorization of the search warrant was credible information, in my opinion, based on what was found when those search warrants were carried out,” Castor said.
Castor may think it’s enough but Jason’s mother does not. Patti Silliman, said she wouldn’t stop until Tampa police officials admit they made mistakes.
“I’m absolutely appalled that they call themselves police officers,” Silliman said. “Everyone that was involved in this situation, they should all be fired.”
Of Coogle, she said, “I would like to see him sit in jail for the rest of his life. Or worse.”
It’s obvious that Jason Westcott was not trafficking drugs. He died because he pointed a gun at what assumed were intruders in his home in the middle of the night. Two dollars worth of marijuana and a professional liar cost him his life.
Now the question becomes: Will police change the way they conduct investigations? Will they bother to substantiate the claims of known liars? Or are more Jason’s going to die?