Family, NAACP accuses Crestview police of using 'excessive force' on man who died after tasing

Sierra Rains
Northwest Florida Daily News

CRESTVIEW -- The family and friends of Calvin Wilks Jr. gathered on the steps of the Crestview Police Department on Tuesday afternoon to voice their concerns about the circumstances that led to his death on Oct. 15.

The Wilks family was joined by members of the Okaloosa County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other community leaders.

The local NAACP chapter has been working with the family to “seek justice” following Wilks' death at North Okaloosa Medical Center. He was taken to the hospital Oct. 14 after he was tased by Crestview police during a welfare check.

The family and friends of Calvin Wilks Jr. bow their heads in prayer during a press conference Tuesday afternoon. Wilks was tased by Crestview police during a welfare check last month and later died at the Okaloosa Medical Center.

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“I believe that the family has shown quite a bit of restraint in the last few weeks, and now they’re seeking the answers to what has happened to their son, their brother, their father, their friend,” said Sabu Williams, vice president of the local NAACP. “The NAACP is determined to work with them all the way.”

Wilks' sister, Camilla Akins, said he often went by the childhood nickname of “Whistle," and was “dearly loved” by his family and friends.

His loss has been “unbearable," she said. Wilks’ mother, Bernice Akins-Mctear, fought back tears as she tried to speak Tuesday.

“We miss his ability to make us smile and laugh; his oftentimes eccentric and deep conversations, and his presence,” Akins said. “We miss witnessing the fulfillment he found in everyday life. Most of all we miss his love that he had for his family, friends and children.”

After reviewing the body-worn cameras that recorded police officers’ interaction with Wilks, Akins said she believes their use of force was what caused her brother’s death. The NAACP also reviewed the footage during a meeting with Crestview officials on Oct. 16.

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“It was extremely painful to watch 45 minutes of body cam footage and witness those who had a duty to protect and serve our brother, handle him with extreme anger,” Akins said.

Officers were called to an apartment complex on Hospital Drive about 2:45 a.m. Oct. 14 in reference to a person who had been heard screaming “stop, please stop,” according to an Oct. 18 press release from the Crestview Police Department.

Officials with the Police Department were not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

Wilks answered the door twice but refused to allow police into the apartment, according to police.

Wilks told officers the homeowner was in the parking lot. However, officers reportedly did not find anyone. According to the NAACP, the officers “forced” their way into the apartment, “forcefully” constrained Wilks, and tased him “numerous times.”

In the release, the Police Department said Wilks was acting “erratic and aggressive" and refused to cooperate. Police decided to detain Wilks after he gave “misleading information” about the location of the homeowner, the release said.

Wilks allegedly resisted by pulling away and kicking the officers. In a statement read by the family, Okaloosa NAACP President Lewis Jennings said he saw very little attempt to deescalate the situation before police “applied excessive force.”

“The hardest thing to watch was even when it became clearly evident that our brother, our loved one, was in serious need of medical assistance after having been tased numerous times, officers stood over his body and watched as his health quickly declined to the point where my brother stopped breathing,” Akins said. “They never administered any aid while waiting for EMS to arrive.”

In the release, police said Wilks became unresponsive while being assessed by EMS. The Medical Examiner’s Office has not released his cause of death as of Wednesday.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney’s Office are conducting independent investigations into the incident. As of Wednesday, the officers involved had not been placed on administrative leave by the Police Department.

The NAACP is requesting that “serious consideration” be given to the removal of all officers involved until an independent investigation has been completed and findings have been released.

The organization is also calling for a citizen review committee to be appointed to review the police department’s policy and procedures on the use of taser guns and other weapons. The Wilks family said they plan to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the Police Department.

“Our faith and trust in the police force has been severely tarnished because of the manner in which those officers handled the incident involving our brother,” Akins said. “We as a family fear that failures made by the officers at the time of the incident will be left unidentified and unrecognized by the police department and the FDLE.”