BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – The Brevard and Seminole Prosecutor’s Office announced Wednesday that it will not bring charges against a Brevard County MP who shot and killed two teenagers in Cocoa on November 13, 2020.
Prosecutors released their findings following an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Prosecutors said the results show that the shooting of Sincere Pierce, 18, and Angelo “AJ” Crooms, 16, by deputy Jafet Santiago-Miranda was justified.
Santiago-Miranda is still on vacation, according to the sheriff’s office.
In the 12-page report, prosecutor Phil Archer criticized media coverage of the case and the timeline for his office’s decision. Archer said he and two assistant prosecutors all reviewed the FDLE results.
“All three of us came to the same independent conclusion that we could not refute the fact that MP Santiago was justified by deadly force on November 13, 2020,” Archer wrote, adding that the final decision was his.
The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office issued a press release of the decision, but did not include a response from Sheriff Wayne Ivey. News 6 has requested an interview with Ivey and a spokesman for the sheriff’s office.
[READ THE STATE ATTORNEY’S REPORT]
Natalie Jackson, a spokeswoman for both families, said she plans to file an unlawful death lawsuit against the MPs and a federal lawsuit against the sheriff’s office.
Attorneys for the families plan to request the Justice Department review of the timing of the decision.
Attorney Ben Crump, who represents both families, learned of the decision shortly after Governor Ron DeSantis signed an anti-riot law on Monday, according to Jackson. Ivey and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd attended the governor’s press conference to sign it.
The report shows that the car driven by Crooms, a gray Volkswagen Passat, was very similar to a car reported as stolen. However, according to the results, Crooms did not drive a stolen car.
[TRENDING: Fla. ‘witch’ swindles $100K from victims | Failed motorcycle stunt leads to man’s death | What ingredients make a vaccine?]
The stolen car, also a gray Passat, had a label from NWEG22, records show, while the car Crooms drove had a label from NWEG04. Prosecutors said MPs arrived by radio for a tag match but began their stop before receiving confirmation.
Investigators said the MPs had their emergency lights on. The dash camera in the cruiser is activated by the use of the lights, which proves that the lights were reportedly used.
The dashcam video shows that both MPs had guns drawn as they approached the car Crooms was driving. According to the prosecutor, this is not an improper practice and both MPs believed they were involved in a traffic disruption with a stolen vehicle that had previously escaped law enforcement agencies.
In the dashcam video, both MPs can be heard yelling at the driver to stop several times, but he kept moving. Prosecutors said the surviving passenger in the car, 20-year-old Jaquan Kimbrough-Rucker, gave FDLE an affidavit that he could hear MPs’ orders.
Kimbrough-Rucker later told News 6’s news partner, Florida Today, that he could not hear these commands because “the music was up.”
The FDLE report also shows that Kimbrough-Rucker told Crooms to drive away from MPs but was told by the driver to sit back.
The prosecutor’s report says that the originally shared dashcam did not provide an accurate representation of Santiago-Miranda’s position in relation to the Passat due to its wide-angle view.
[READ THE FDLE REPORT]
FDLE provided prosecutors with a “digitally enhanced” version of the video shown above showing Santiago-Miranda standing in front of the car and slightly on the passenger side when he opened fire as the car accelerated in his direction to the prosecutor . Prosecutors said this was backed up by the forensics of the shooting. They showed that the bullets hit the passenger’s hood first and moved toward the driver’s side as the car moved forward.
The prosecutor said MPs had no way of knowing that the car was not going towards Santiago-Miranda. There was no cover the deputy could reach without compromising his safety and the intersection was blocked by the cruiser, the report said. This gave Crooms the only way to drive through a lawn and sidewalk to get away, and there was no sane way for the Santiago Miranda to know that escape was Crooms’ only motivation, the prosecutor said in the report .
According to the report, Pierce sat behind Crooms during the shooting, and although it was unintentional to shoot him, it was warranted as the shooting at Crooms was warranted according to the prosecutor.
Cynthia Green erects her son’s grave in Riverview Memorial Gardens, which was destroyed sometime late at night or early in the morning. Her son Sincere Pierce, 18, and friend Angelo Crooms, 16, were killed by a deputy of a Brevard County sheriff on November 13, 2020. (Malcolm Denemark, Florida today)
That announcement from the prosecutor comes a day after Pierce’s grandmother – who identifies as his mother after raising him as her own – held a press conference with Justice Brevard, a community group that says it is working on “transparency and Ensuring equal justice for everything in Brevard County. “
“I want justice. I want transparency. I want everything that comes to my baby because he doesn’t deserve it, ”said Cynthia Byrd Green.
Green complained that it was taking too long for the prosecutor to release the results of his investigation after receiving the FDLE’s report on February 5th.
Prosecutor Phil Archer wrote in his decision released on Wednesday that the family was informed by their lawyers on April 19 that a decision had been made not to bring charges against the MP.
Archer defended the decision to delay the release of the FDLE report on a number of grounds, including the ability for law enforcement to prepare for “any issues that may arise from protests related to this decision.”
“I know some will disagree with my decision and others will strongly agree,” Archer wrote, saying peaceful protest is welcome but violent protest is not. He later added, “It really is a sad comment on the state of our nation that we must prepare for such eventualities.”
He also said the decision was delayed to allow time to prepare a PowerPoint presentation for the family to better understand the decision and to prepare for the “expected onslaught of public record requests” following the announcement.
However, Archer said prosecutors could never meet with the family after the decision.
After learning of the press conference with Green, “requesting the publication of our decision” and “continuing to provide inaccurate statements to the media,” the prosecutor decided to publish the results on Wednesday.
All communication with Crooms and Pierce’s families was through their attorneys starting Nov. 27, when the family received legal assistance, according to the 12-page report.
Archer denied that his office did not respond to requests from their families’ lawyers.
“Never has any of my associates failed to respond or speak to an attorney who represents the families of Mr. Crooms or Mr. Pierce,” Archer wrote.
In the final report, Archer’s office also made several recommendations for law enforcement training and additional reviews of the use of violent practices.
The prosecution plans to send a letter to Seminole State College and Eastern Florida State College, both of which are attending law enforcement training and recommending a review of tactical and operational training.
Archer also said he expects Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey or his staff to conduct an analysis of the incident to determine if any changes or modifications are needed to their internal training and policies.
This is a developing story and will be updated as more details become available.
Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.