Sean Grant got some good news from a Florida jury last Friday that could dramatically change his life—and not just because of the freedom he was granted.
The young Black man was acquitted on two counts of aggravated assault for allegedly trying to hit two DeLand, Florida, police officers with his car—after one of the officers began firing a volley of bullets at him. Grant was hit by two of them, with one shattering his wrist. And now that the six-person jury has cleared him of the felony charges, those shots he took will soon become the basis of a lawsuit against the officer, the police department and Volusia County.
Grant’s lawyer, Mark O’Mara, told Atlanta Blackstar before the trial began that the officer probably wouldn’t have even unholstered his gun if Grant had been white. Now that the trial is over, O’Mara made it clear what his client’s next move will be.
“I believe the DeLand PD filed the charges only to defer liability for a bad shooting,” O’Mara said in a statement provided to Atlanta Blackstar. “A shoddy investigation and controversy over missing surveillance video support this belief, and now, thanks to a ‘not-guilty’ verdict from a thoughtful jury, the door has been opened for holding the DeLand Police Department accountable for their officer’s actions.”
Translation: a lawsuit is coming.
Grant’s case was yet another example of police officers overreacting and firing a gun at a young Black man with little provocation.
The incident happened on October 21, 2013, when Grant took a sandwich and a 24-ounce can of Bud Light from a Racetrac gas station without paying for them. Grant now admits it was stupid and inexcusable, according to O’Mara.
What happened in response to the shoplifting is where the case really begins. DeLand Police Officer Joshua Santos, who was inside the Racetrac with his partner, exited the store and almost immediately fired a volley of four or five shots inside Grant’s Honda. One bullet shattered Grant’s wrist, another hit him in the cheek and another lodged in the chest of Grant’s acquaintance, William Kitchen, just a centimeter from his aorta. Kitchen, who is white, survived, but the bullet is still in his chest—too close to his heart to risk removing it.
Santos said he fired at Grant because he thought the car was headed toward him and his partner. Grant, who was 27 at the time, said he saw the gun pointed at him and was just trying to get out of the parking lot. Kitchen, who is white, confirmed Grant’s account. So do the skid marks showing that his car accelerated in a left turn away from the officers.
After O’Mara was done, the jury bought Grant’s version of events, acquitting him on the two charges of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon, after deliberating for about 2 ½ hours. While clearing him on the felonies, jurors did find Grant guilty of leaving the scene of an accident involving damage, a second-degree misdemeanor. Grant pleaded no contest to misdemeanor retail theft before the trial.
Circuit Judge Randell Rowe III sentenced Grant to six months probation on each of the misdemeanors, to run concurrently.
O’Mara said his client was relieved.
“For a year-and-a-half they were accusing him of doing something that he simply did not do and that type of a false allegation when it comes to law enforcement has to weigh very heavily on you,” O’Mara told the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “There was certainly not enough evidence to convict my client of intentionally pointing his car at either officer.”
Kitchen has already filed a lawsuit against the city of DeLand.
Before the trial began, O’Mara was clear on its racial implications.
“If Sean Grant was white with a sweater wrapped around his neck, that gun is not coming out,” O’Mara said in an interview with Atlanta Blackstar. “I don’t see it. That gun does not come out. That gun was out of that holster before that car is going forward. There’s no other fact scenario that makes sense. Why the hell was he taking a gun out because a guy stole a sandwich? And I don’t care he’s trying to get away. You still can’t pull a gun. But he pulled a gun because he’s okay with pulling a gun under the facts that he saw.”