FORT PIERCE — Prosecutors will seek the death penalty against 25-year-old Eriese Tisdale in the Feb. 28 shooting death of St. Lucie County sheriff's Sgt. Gary Morales during a traffic stop, State Attorney Bruce Colton said Wednesday.
A grand jury convened and upgraded Tisdale's with a first degree murder charge after convening Wednesday. Tisdale is pleading not guilty and is asking for a jury trial, according to court documents filed by his assistant public defender.
The St. Lucie County grand jury determined evidence warranted filling a charge of first degree murder — a step that was needed before prosecutors could announce they were seeking the death penalty.
Tisdale, 25, of St. Lucie County, is accused of shooting sheriff's sergeant Gary Morales at point-blank range during a traffic stop the morning of Feb. 28 on the southern outskirts of Fort Pierce, said Chief Assistant State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl.
A grand jury meets behind closed doors and only listens to the prosecution's evidence. Its decision isn't a conviction. It considers whether the prosecutors have enough evidence to warrant a first-degree murder charge.
Later a separate jury will be selected to hold a public trial.
For now, Tisdale is asking for one. He also is waiving his right to arraignment, to appear in court to have the charges presented to him before a judge, court documents show.
So far the Sheriff's Office arrest affidavit has few details about what preceded the shooting.
Harliee is asking prosecutors to publicly release all its case documents including photographs and recordings.
Scripps Treasure Coast Newspapers contributed to this report