A Florida man is facing felony charges after he reportedly profiled and illegally detained a Black teenager who was riding his bike to basketball practice.
On June 9, the unidentified 18-year-old was riding his bike through a neighborhood in the Tampa suburb of Seffner, Florida, around 5:30 a.m. when he was stopped by Luis Santos. Cellphone video and audio footage released by the office of Hillsborough State’s Attorney Andrew Warren captured part of their interaction.
In the video, which was taken by Santos, he is heard interrogating the teen about his presence in the area.
The teen confirmed he lived in the neighborhood by stating his address, but that wasn’t good enough for Santos.
“You’re not going anywhere,” Santos told him. “You’re being detained.”
Santos called 911 and accused his captive of burglarizing cars and stealing a bicycle.
“I have somebody breaking into cars. We have it on video,” he told the dispatcher.
She asked for the teen’s race and Santos replied, “he’s a Black guy.” Toward the end of the call, Santos identified himself as an “off-duty officer.” He also told the dispatcher he made the teen stand with his hands up.
Santos is not a law enforcement officer. The closest he got was a stint as a security guard at a theme park, according to a statement from the state’s attorney. He quit the job months ago and his security officer license expired on June 16.
When the police arrived, according to the attorney’s office, the teenager was in distress.
“The victim was visibly shaken and hyperventilating when deputies arrived, with his hands still over his head,” the statement said. “He reasonably believed his life may be in jeopardy if he tried to leave or even move. Santos had no lawful authority to restrain a person in a public place and his own recorded words establish that he was restraining the victim, by threat, against his will.”
The responding officers later drove the victim to his practice to ensure he arrived on time.
“I want to commend the sheriff’s deputies who responded to the scene. They calmed the situation down and comforted the victim. Then they took this vigilante to task for what he’d done and referred the case to our office for potential charges,” Warren said, according to WFTS.
Santos was arrested on Saturday, July 25, and charged with false imprisonment. If convicted, he faces a maximum of five years in prison.
“What happened that morning should upset everyone in our community,” Warren said. “We have skilled police officers — we don’t need vigilantes confronting people on the street.”