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A Bottle Of Cadillac Cologne Is Mistaken For a Gun, and Cory Tanner Is Shot Dead

| March 19, 2015


A bottle of Cadillac eau de toilette like the one Cory Tanner was holding in his hand as he ran toward U.S. Marshals, who mistook the bottle for a gun and fired five or six times, killing Tanner.

The U.S. Marshals who shot him thought he was holding a gun. But Cory Tanner was holding a black bottle of Cadillac cologne in his right hand.  He was coming out to face marshals who’d been commanding him to come out. Several described him as “charging” out. Numerous witnesses recalled hearing quick, running like footsteps and a sustained yell. The marshals at the door thought he was going to shoot them.

They shot him, two of them with .40-caliber Glocks, one of them with an M4 rifle. At least one of the marshals who fired his Glock thought that the sound of gunfire he’d just heard was coming from Tanner. Five bullets struck Tanner, one of them in the head. A sheriff’s deputy observed marshals back away and spread out as they fired. Tanner fell at the threshold of the back door. He was unarmed, just as his brother had told a law enforcement officer moments earlier outside.

That’s how, according to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigative summary of the case, Corey Tanner was killed on Aug. 13. The 56-page summary lays out the sequence of events, summarizes interviews with every law enforcement officer and witness at the scene of the shooting and some who had been involved in the hours leading up to the shooting. It includes interviews with paramedics at the scene, hospital personnel, the medical examiner’s report, a crime lab report and a list of evidence collected but does not reach conclusions.

Tanner’s mother, Brenda Johnson, told the News-Journal’s Tony Holt—who earlier today first reported on police video taken of the shooting—that she was considering a civil action against the police agencies involved. (R.J. Larizza, the state attorney, told the paper in January that his office had concluded the shooting was justified.)

Tanner that morning was at his brother’s house at 64 Espanola Road in Espanola, the impoverished and predominantly black hamlet where Tanner had sought refuge after police started hunting for him less than a month earlier. A convicted felon with a long list of charges to his name, he was wanted for a shooting in Bunnell that left a man injured on July 23.

Cory Tanner.

Cory Tanner.

It had been Tanner’s brother, John Johnson, who had told deputies earlier that morning that Tanner was at his house. The house had been under surveillance. When Johnson left in a Buick, he was pulled over by deputies on County Road 13. He agreed to return with the cops to the house on Espanola Road and talk his brother out of the residence, according to the FDLE report, but told police there were four children in the house.

The shooting took place about 10 minutes after marshals, Flagler County Sheriff’s deputies and Bunnell police officers had set up a perimeter around the house and began in turn commanding, ordering, urging and coaxing Tanner to come out, at one point drafting his brother on a speaker to urge him to come out. Johnson was handcuffed in a patrol vehicle during the operation.

Several marshals had taken up a position at a front door, which they eventually breached with a ram. Others took up positions at the back door, where the shooting took place. They started making their announcements to Tanner at 10:06 a.m. “Sheriff’s Office, we’ll send the dog in. Come on out, now,” one of the commands went. Soon after that, police notice movement inside and realize it’s children. They soften their commands and coax the children to come out, which they do. “Cory,” the voice of a marshal resumes, “U.S. Marshals, we know you’re in there and we’re not going away.”

The sheriff’s Cpl. Weaver brought his cruiser to the front of the house and announced on his PA system: “Cory Tanner, this is the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office with the U.S. Marshals, we have a warrant for your arrest. Come to the front door with your hands in the air and open it very slowly, do it now.” There was no response despite multiple additional commands. Then Johnson got on the PA system. “Cory, they got you this time man, come on man.”

It was as Weaver was voicing still more commands that shots rang out.

Almost immediately before the fateful moment, marshals had sent in a guided robot unit that piped live video back to cops outside. The robot made an “audible loud noise on the floor” of the house. It was at that moment that Tanner—who may have been startled by the robot—opened his bedroom door (a Marshal saw the door “fly open”) and come out pointing an object at one of the task force officers. Tanner, according to the officer, “came screaming and running toward the back door.”

All three marshals who fired their weapons described a similar scene. Deputy U.S. Marshal Joel McAllister thought Tanner was holding a gun. McAllister had heard a “sustained yell,” then heard Tanner’s footsteps “charging” toward him and other officers who’d taken up positions, arms drawn, at the back door. “I believed that he was going to take one of us out with him.,” McAllister said. McAllister fired his Glock 22, which fired at least one shot before jamming.

Task Force Officer Jeff Alvarez, who was handling the video monitor, the report states, “remembers a loud scream and a thumping sound from inside the house as if someone was sprinting toward them, followed by gunshots. After hearing the first shot, or shots, and seeing [deputy marshal Kenirey falling, Alvarez] dropped the monitor and moved at an angle past the northwest corner of the house to a position where he could see the back door. At that point, when he saw Tanner coming through the threshold of the door, TFO Alvarez remembers firing twice in Tanner’s direction as he was moving back and Tanner was falling.

Michael Pagliughi, a supervisory inspector with the marshal service, would describe the sequence of shots as “five or six gunshots which he described as three quick shots then two shots, with no real pause between them” according to the FDLE report.

Several sheriff’s deputies described similar scenes or sounds.

Police sealed off Espanola Road the morning of the shooting, as a crowd gathered and occasionally flared. (© FlaglerLive)

Police sealed off Espanola Road the morning of the shooting, as a crowd gathered and occasionally flared. (© FlaglerLive)

Sophian Bush, a neighbor and an eyewitness, told investigators that police knocked on the door of 64 Espanola and “begged” Tanner, whom she did not know personally, to come out. She estimated that sequence to have taken 20 to 30 minutes (though the investigation showed it less than that).

Another neighbor, Eugene Bush, watched the activity from a kitchen window next door. “Bush,” the investigative report summarizes, “observed a black male in his mid-twenties attempt to exit the back of the residence after ‘hitting’ one of the Marshals. Bush stated he heard the first shot before the black male made it to the back door. He believed the black male fired one gunshot before the Marshals returned fire. According to Bush, the first gunshot sounded as though it came from the interior of the residence. Bush stated the Marshals fired approximately two to three shots. Bush stated the black male subject fell to the ground after being shot.” The investigative report notes: “Mr. Bush’s account of the incident in regards to tear gas being deployed, a gunshot from inside of the residence, and Tanner hitting one of the Marshals, has not been corroborated by any other witness or physical evidence.”

After the shooting, Lt. Wayne Semenick and firefighter Robert Erett, with Flagler County Fire Rescue’s Unit 51, were waved to the scene by police. The report descriobes what happened next: “As they approached the residence located at 64 Espanola Road, Lt. Semenick asked an unknown officer where the patient was located and was advised ‘up that way.’ He was unable to locate the patient when he saw a second officer who directed him to the back of the residence. Before reaching the rear of the residence, he was stopped and waved off by a third officer wearing a tactical vest. The officer informed him “that’s not needed”, to which he asked, ‘is it that obvious?’ The officer replied ‘yes’ and they were ultimately cancelled.”

The medical examiner would find that Tanner had a “Through and through indefinite range gunshot injury to head with penetration injury of the brain,” another wound to the “right posterolateral thorax with penetrating injury of right lung, heart and left lung” and a “deformed hydro shock projectile” recovered from the chest, a gunshot wound to the right forearm, and superficial “ricochet-type” wounds to the lower chest and right arm.

The investigative summary states that Tanner was “believed to be a Crips Gang member, had repeatedly made threats to kill and/or harm others, to include law enforcement officers.” The summary also states that Tanner “is known to authorities and has an extensive violent criminal history.” Tanner’s court record, however, is not as extensive: In 2010, Tanner was convicted of a third-degree felony on a charge of selling or distributing an imitation substance. That was the most serious charge he was convicted of in Flagler despite numerous arrests.

He was convicted of trespassing, obstructing an officer without violence and disorderly conduct, both misdemeanors. Charges of battery on an inmate, domestic battery, criminal mischief, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, illegal possession of a firearm while a felon, loitering or prowling, were all dropped or dismissed. When he was killed, he was facing three felony charges, according to his docket in Flagler County court: attempted second degree murder, aggravated battery and aggravated assault.  (The FDLE investigation lists his charge as attempted first degree murder).

In her interview with FDLE, Mattie Verdell, Tanner’s girlfriend, said she’d last seen Tanner four days earlier when they’d stayed at a motel in Ormond Beach and he told her he wanted to turn himself in, but was scared and didn’t know what to do. He told her they had “a shoot to kill on him,” as he alleged that a cop named “George” of going around saying he was going to kill him.

Verdell said Tanner was bi-polar and had been taking his medication in jail, but when he’d get out, it was hard for her and his mother to get him back on it. Verdell said she’d never seen Tanner with a gun. He’d apparently spoken to his mother by phone moments before the shooting.

Just before his death, Tanner, 23, exchanged texts with his Verdell, with whom he had a child. “Dey here bae im sorry,” he texted at 10:14 a.m. Moments later, he texted: “I LOVE YALL WIT ALL MY HEART DNT 4 GET ME BAE”.

He was killed at 10:16.

Cory Tanner FDLE Report

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35 Responses for “A Bottle Of Cadillac Cologne Is Mistaken For a Gun, and Cory Tanner Is Shot Dead”

  1. Jackson says:

    someone better get the checkbook out.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Suicide by cop.

  3. Citizen says:

    Wow…another unarmed black man shot and killed by trigger happy cops… This deserves national media coverage as it is a major problem nationwide…

  4. m&m says:

    Why does one put themselves in the position to have Federal Marshalls come looking for him??

  5. The Truth says:

    This is a sad story to read, as you would hope that Mr. Tanner’s life could have been turned around. Unfortunately, these situations are brought on by the person themselves. He was clearly doing things with his life that he shouldn’t have been doing, or the U.S. Marshalls wouldn’t have been at his home to begin with. I hope that anyone who’s facing trouble in their life will see their are brighter days ahead.

  6. Col. Restern says:

    Here’s an idea. We all know that snipers are set up way before it gets to the point of shooting a person. Buy those guys some “real expensive” scopes. That way they can SEE what a suspect has in his/her hand before blowing the person away .

    • liberal says:

      i tried looking through one of those scopes, hard enough to keep it steady on something stationary let alone a moving target. you try it

  7. David S. says:

    What are the police supposed to do in a lot of these situations do a jig in the middle of the street just remember that they are there to protect and serve the public a lot of these people are felons who need to be brought to justice.

  8. Joy says:

    No checkbooks needed. This was police assisted suicide.

  9. Moe Syzlak says:

    Its easy to Monday night quarterback these officers but how about we say thank you to these cops who went out in harms way to deal with one of Flagler counties biggest bad guys. Lets remember they were there cause this guy was wanted for a shooting. Tanner was an adult and made a decision to charge police with at the time an unknown object in his hands. Were these cops supposed to start taking gun fire before they’re allowed to fire at him. Here’s a crazy idea, maybe tanner should have come out with his hands up like he was ordered. Maybe he shouldn’t have shot someone if the first place.

  10. So sad says:

    It is so disturbing that 4 children were removed from the home and witnessed this event. Many other times we hear of cops trying to end a situation as this with communicating with the party, that didn’t seem to happen in this case. The police here seemed to rush matters, and were too anxious to shoot. Even when the brother was in the back of the cop car told the cop his brother didn’t have a gun, that information was not passed on to those with their guns pointed in the house, and I would like to know why this valuable information was not passed on. Cops know their jobs are dangerous, as are many other professions. If they are scardy cats then find another profession. The children that were removed from the house have to live with these memories the rest of their lives! There was no reason to rush this situation.

    • Jon Dopp says:

      Rushed? The neighbors even testified that a great deal of time was spent “begging” tanner to surrender. Just because the brother says there is no gun, doesn’t mean there isn’t one. A man wanted for attempted murder with a firearm is going to have guns pointed at him when the police show up, regardless of what the brother says. Cory chose the outcome here, not the police. The officers involved in this situation have more guts than you can even fathom, and to call them cowards is pathetic. They must live with this outcome for the rest of their lives too.

      • Anonymous says:

        The neighbors also said Mr.Tanner fired a shot which was not the truth.. So how creditable is the neighbor?

        • Jamie Arisdale says:

          The video, which is public record, shows the officers and his brother begging him to come out for an extended period of time. I don’t need the neighbors testimony when I have seen the video. So, yeah, begged for a great deal of time.

  11. m&m says:

    David S you are right and justice was served. End of subject.

    • Barbara says:

      Oh really since when does the police become the Judge Jury executioner? I don t care what crime he committed he had a right to a trial, he was still a human being,.Would you say the samething ifcit was your brother or how about your father?

      • Jon Dopp says:

        He has that right. He chose to throw it away by charging at the police with what appeared to be a weapon. He knew what the outcome would be when he made that choice. IF this was my brother or father I would be destroyed, but I would not blame the police. People need to start taking responsibility for their actions, and those of their loved ones, and stop blaming society and/or the police. It’s always someone else’s fault and it’s getting ridiculous.

        • Karl Hungus says:

          You’re right, people do need to start taking responsibility for their actions, and that includes the police as well.

          • Jon Dopp says:

            I’m not following you. The police are trying to apprehend a man wanted for attempted murder. Last I checked, that is their job. It is what they’re expected to do. When they confront the man, he chose to behave in a way that got him killed. The police did their jobs on this one. No wrongdoing, no foul play and nothing to “take responsibility for.”

            • Karl Hungus says:

              They didn’t aprehend him, they killed him for carrying a bottle of cologne when he could have been subdued without killing him. Other countries seem to handle these situations without murdering people, and considering the wide range of nonlethal options it kind of baffles me.

              I guess the lesson here is that when dealing with police, always keep in mind that you might be executed at any time for making officers feel like they might be threatened. They do after all work a dangerous job, one that ranks somewhere around #15 on the most dangerous job list when including the biggest killer of police, traffic accidents and heart disease from obesity.

  12. bella says:

    I truly don’t think he intended to slap on some cologne later to impress jail mates. No, he more than likely intended to use that object on someone, or ‘knew’ that it would be viewed as a weapon, thus provoking a response, leading to the inevitable…..


  13. Nick Padlen says:

    I witnessed a SWAT team break into a house at 3:30 in the morning. Heard a shot fired, a dog yelped. Then three more shots fired..screaming of the words ” DON”T SHOOT MY CHILD “. Then another five shots. When the smoked cleared and news reporters got to the house they were told to leave the property…..That night on local news channel the public was told there was a drug raid and 2 adults 1 child were shot and killed. Also the family dog was shot and killed…….I forgot to mention….Seems the SWAT team was send to WRONG address. This family did NOTHING WRONG but were murdered in COLD BLOOD……..America needs to be ALERT and READY for ALL kinds of EVIL .

    • Really says:

      Really? When and where? Great accusations with no link to the article. And the felon wanted for shooting comes out of the house in a hurry carrying cologne, suicide by cop. Maybe you all check out the news story where the Ferguson protester/community activist ran through a scenario where he had to make a snap decision. Clueless.

  14. NortonSmitty says:

    Maybe the Marshals saw the Cadillac Cologne and shot him before he spalshed some on them. If you have never smelled it, believe me, it could be considered a deadly weapon.

  15. liberal says:

    I’d hate to be hit in the head by a chunk of hard brick-like glass. Might even kill me let alone hurt or knock me out. Even a fist by one of those MMA fighters, I bet that could leave a mark. Instead of saying un-armed, how about say Obeyed all commands by the police and surrendered peacefully…. but wait, that wouldn’t be the truth.

  16. Jamie Arisdale says:

    I enjoy the guy who wrote that the cops should have listened to tanners brother, who TOLD them he didnt have a gun. Oh okay. Why dont the cops just take the word of the guy whos been hiding Tanner out, after tanner shot a (black) man, intending to kill a different (black) man. Am I getting that right? How about the fact that Tanner tells his girlfriend not to forget him? She wouldnt have had to forget him if he would have come out with his hands up. Oh and the black bottle of cologne? Was he just trying to smell really nice for the Marshals? Hmmmm.

    In an ideal world Tanner would get the medical help he needs, but this is not an ideal world, and he didnt. And his own actions led to his downfall.

  17. David S. says:

    Whats the old saying,you mess with the bull you get the horns.

  18. Mondexian Mama says:

    A bottle of cologne? Well at least the cops didn’t use their usual excuse that the deceased was trying to run them down with a car.

  19. ted bundy says:

    ghetto lottery..good riddance…

  20. wake up! says:

    I feel bad for the cops who shot him they have to live with that. It sounds like they did us all a favor, one less
    bad guy to worry about and support

  21. nomad says:

    This is what happens when one lives in a warmongering country. Law enforcement becomes an extension of the military and the citizens are now viewed as enemy combatants to be killed indiscriminately. Their slightest movement, even presence is now perceived as a threat in this latest war zone. What do we call this war? The war on citizens? It’ll be very easy to eliminate this war unlike the war on poverty, the war on drugs, the war terror. But then again, there is no desire nor incentive to end or win those wars since these actions will be very detrimental to the financial prosperity of those who profit from them.

    Ending/winning the war on poverty means that the rich will have to start paying their share instead of living off the welfare of the state/taxpayers. Ending/winning the war on drugs means that the mega bank, the CIA, DEA and others will lose out on their money laundering schemes and successful clandestine operations. Ending the war on terror means the end of the gravy train for the military industrial complex, defense corporations, weapons manufacturers and plenty others. But the war on citizens? That one can be successful. With 60+% of Americans receiving some form of social benefit, this is the war that needs to be won and ended so that less is spent on them and more is pocketed by those already doing the pocketing. This is the thinking behind the war/assault on poor people in this country which is being played out in front of our very eyes.

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