Lake County sheriff’s deputy indicted on civil rights violations in shooting of unarmed woman

A Lake County sheriff’s deputy resigned Wednesday after being indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice and charged with civil rights offenses.

The charges stem from an incident on Oct. 11, 2016 when Dep. Richard Palmer, 58, is accused of shooting a woman “whose hands were visible and empty” during a traffic stop in Paisley. Palmer claimed the woman’s left hand was in her pocket and as she pulled it out, he saw a dark object in her hand, the indictment says.

Palmer is charged with using unreasonable force by shooting an unarmed woman and then misleading state investigators about the circumstances of his actions, according to Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and FBI Special Agent in Charge Rachel Rojas, of the agency’s Jacksonville Division.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement initially investigated the shooting and upon forwarding their report to the State Attorney’s Office, a grand jury was convened, which then cleared Palmer. But a subsequent federal investigation into a potential civil rights violation began shortly thereafter and Palmer was placed back on administrative leave, according to a statement from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.

If convicted, Palmer faces a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison for his use of unreasonable force, 20 years in prison for his false statements and fines. The sheriff’s office vowed to continue fully cooperating with all entities involved in the various stages of the investigations and proceedings as it has done since the initial incident, a spokesman said.