Largo, Florida – A heartbroken family is speaking out and accusing police of visiting a funeral home and using a dead man’s finger to unlock his phone after officers shot and killed him during a traffic stop for illegal window tint.
Linus Phillip, 30, was approached by two Largo Police officers at a gas station, who alleged that the windows on his black Nissan sedan were too dark. Officers Matthew Steiner and Prentice Ables claimed that when they were talking to Philip, they smelled marijuana coming from inside his vehicle and attempted to detain him.
Philip responded by getting into the driver’s seat of the vehicle. The Tampa Bay Times reported that Steiner “found himself trapped halfway in the vehicle as Phillip put it in reverse and accelerated with the driver’s side door open.”
Steiner pulled out his gun and fired at Phillip in what police are calling “self-defense.” The officer fell back and the car continued to roll backward, hitting another car before it stopped in between two gas pumps. Phillip was later taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
“At the time, the officer felt he was in peril for his own life and took action,” Largo Police Lt. Randall Chaney said at a news conference. “It stopped the action of the suspect at the time, and it may very well have saved people’s lives in the parking lot that night.”
Phillip was not armed at the time of the confrontation, and while officers claimed they found cocaine and marijuana in his car, they did not find any weapons or evidence that would indicate that Phillip was planning to harm others—which contradicts Chaney’s statement.
Police have not said how many rounds Steiner fired, how long Phillip’s body was left before the officers claimed they started applying medical treatment and called paramedics, or whether the officers’ body cameras recorded the incident.
The shooting happened at a Wawa gas station and police are claiming that the station’s surveillance cameras did not capture the scene. However, Phillip’s family told ABC Action News that they do not believe the Largo Police Department is being honest about the details of the shooting or the availability of surveillance footage.
The family also claimed that police took Phillip’s phone after they killed him and then visited the Sylvan Abbey Funeral Home and demanded access to Phillip’s dead body so that they could use his finger to unlock the phone.
“So they are allowed to pull him out of the refrigerator and use a dead man’s finger to get to his phone. It’s disgusting,” said Victoria Armstrong, Phillip’s longtime girlfriend.
Phillip was the father of two young children. His daughter died last year after a battle with leukemia and his son, Isaac, is 16 months old. Armstrong said she is hurt by the way police are portraying the father of her children.
“My son is no longer going to have a father or to make his dad proud. He’s not here anymore because of this and the police are slandering his name like some awful person,” Armstrong said. “We are fighting to find out what happened.”
Phillip’s mother, Martha Hicks, cried as she told ABC Action News that her son was killed just after his 30th birthday. “They killed him after his 30th birthday. Oh god, he turned 30 on March 11. It’s too much, too much we just want to know what happened,” she said.
The Largo Police Department is refusing to respond to specific questions about the shooting and whether the officers’ took Phillip’s fingerprints days after he died. It remains to be seen whether video footage from the shooting will be released.