Authorities released video footage of a fatal police shooting that left two Black teens dead in Florida.
The shooting occurred Nov. 13, in Cocoa, Florida, a coastal town about 50 miles east of Orlando. Angelo Crooms, 16, and 18-year-old Sincere Pierce, both of Cocoa, were in a moving car trying to drive away from a traffic stop when Brevard County sheriff’s deputy Jafet Santiago-Miranda fired several gunshots at the vehicle.
The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, in a statement this week, suggested the fatal shooting was justified, claiming Santiago-Miranda was in “immediate danger” because the car was barreling down on him when he fired on it.
The department released dashcam video from Santiago-Miranda’s cruiser on Tuesday, Nov. 17.
Santiago-Miranda was hired by the Sheriff’s Office in February 2017. Carson Hendren, a second deputy at the scene during the shooting, joined the agency in June 2018.
The Sheriff’s Office said both deputies were placed on paid administrative leave pending the investigation by Florida Department of Law Enforcement, a common procedure for officer-involved shootings. After FDLE concludes its investigation, the shooting will be reviewed by 18th Circuit State Attorney Phil Archer’s office. The state agency intends to complete its investigation over the next 60 to 90 days and hand it off to prosecutors, according to the statement from Brevard County sheriff Wayne Ivey.
Tom Archer, a spokesman for the State Attorneys Office, issued a statement Wednesday, Nov. 18 expressing confidence in FDLE as well as condolences for Crooms’ and Pierce’s families.
“We understand and share their desire to know what took place,” the statement read. “The role of the State Attorney in this investigation and in conducting our review is to determine whether a criminal violation of Florida law has occurred, whether any person may be held criminally responsible, and whether such criminal responsibility can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. Our commitment to justice is the fundamental and guiding principal in every such decision.”
According to the sheriff’s officials, the deputies suspected the gray Volkswagen sedan being driven by Crooms was stolen and believed it had just escaped another deputy in the area.
Authorities initially spotted the car along Dixon Boulevard near Clearlake Road then saw it again moments later about a half-mile west near Ivy Drive, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Hendren and Santiago-Miranda closed in as the car turned into a residential neighborhood on Stetson Drive.
Santiago-Miranda’s dash cam video shows him and Hendren follow the Volkswagen sedan into a driveway where the deputies box the car in with their patrol vehicles. The deputies got out and drew their weapons as the Volkswagen backs out of the driveway.
Santiago-Miranda is heard ordering the driver, Crooms, to stop seven times as the teen eases the car back out into the road, nudges forward and then backs up again.
“Stop the vehicle, God damn it,” the deputy yelled moments before the Volkswagen accelerates forward again, this time in his direction.
That’s when Santiago-Miranda opened fire on the Volkswagen, letting off what sounded like 10 gunshots as he slid out of screen sidestepping the vehicle.
The Sheriff’s Office statement indicated Crooms angled the Volkswagen toward Santiago-Miranda and the deputy was “forced to fire his service weapon” to “stop the deadly threat of the car from crashing into him.”
A third occupant in the car survived. That occupant and told FDLE investigators they heard Santiago-Miranda’s stop directives, the statement said.
Authorities recovered two guns from the vehicle, according to Ivey.
Hendren did not fire her weapon, according to Click Orlando, which reported that both teens’ families have hired civil rights attorney Ben Crump.
Crooms and Pierce’s families attended a vigil for the two teens in Cocoa on Wednesday, Nov. 18.
“I was angry about it, I was angry because I miss him,” Crooms’ mother Tasha Strachan told the Orlando TV station. “I want answers to why that was done, it didn’t have to be done like that.”
Pierce’s mother, Quasheda Pierce, was still shell-shocked as well, trying to understand why her son was killed.
“I’m looking for a little closure,” she said. “We want some answers.”
Crump weighed in on Twitter Wednesday, suggesting fear made the teens try to drive around the deputy. He demanded the Sheriff’s Office release all bodycam and dashcam footage and urged any residents in the neighborhood to submit surveillance video.
“Video released by @BrevardSheriff clearly shows AJ Crooms & Sincere Pierce were terrified, trying to drive around cops who approached w/ guns drawn,” Crump tweeted. “Out of harm’s way, the deputy moved closer to get a better shot, firing w/ intent to kill, then kept firing as the car passed by.”