The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office in Florida is facing public backlash after it released dashcam footage from a police shooting that left two Black teenagers dead.
On Friday, Nov. 13, deputies intercepted A.J. Crooms, 16, and Sincere Pierce, 18, while responding to a report of a stolen car in Cocoa, Florida. Around 10:30 that morning, the teenagers were both fatally shot by officers after the driver, Crooms, sped away from a traffic stop, according to Miami-area news station WSVN.
The dashcam video released by the sheriff’s office shows the car turning into a driveway as it is being followed by patrol cars. When the teens’ car pulls into the driveway, the deputies get out of their vehicles, but the driver then backs out and tries to maneuver the car into a position to go around the police.
After police instruct the teenagers to stop the vehicle several times, Crooms reverses the vehicle to straighten it up, then proceeds toward a deputy with the car in drive. The officer then fired several shots into the front area of the car before the video cuts off.
The teenagers were both transported to local hospitals where they were pronounced dead from their fatal gun wounds, according to WSVN.
Lauded civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, said Monday that the teenagers' families had retained him. He also requested for an investigation to be conducted by the U.S. Justice Department.
On Wednesday, Crump said that it was “painfully troubling to us that this teen driver and the teen backseat passenger were terrified and drove around deputies who approached the vehicle” with their firearms drawn.
“Claiming that this deputy discharged 10 shots to get himself out of harm’s way is a clear attempt to justify the killing of these teens,” Crump said. “This disturbing incident, which cost the lives of two Black teens, again documents the dangers of driving or even riding while Black — since the deputy also shot into the backseat, killing a passenger.”
Crump is also demanding that the sheriff’s office release all recordings related to the case, including any additional dashcam video from the other patrol cars and neighborhood camera feeds.
“These parents are heartbroken, as any parents would be,” the attorney said in a statement. “They deserve full transparency and speedy answers about who is responsible for the deaths and the circumstances surrounding their shootings.”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) said it’s investigating the shooting and evaluating forensic evidence as it awaits the young men’s autopsy report.
“We continue to conduct interviews and hope to be finished with the initial interviews soon,” FDLE spokeswoman Jessica Cary said in a statement. “Once we have completed our investigative reports, we provide that information to the state attorney’s office and they determine whether or not charges will be filed. FDLE’s investigation is limited to the officer’s use of force.”
In a Facebook statement, Sheriff Wayne Ivey said that officers were clear and verbal in their attempts to get the teens to stop the vehicle. Ivey said deputies responding on the scene were in “immediate danger” during the encounter.
"Please pay close attention to the video recording, as you can not only hear the repeated verbal commands from the deputies for the driver of the vehicle to stop, but you can actually see the tires of the vehicle turn sharply as the car accelerates towards Deputy [Jafet] Santiago-Miranda who is now in immediate danger of being struck by the vehicle," he wrote.
This week, Ivey identified the deputies present during the shooting as Jafet Santiago-Miranda and Carson Hendren, both of who have been with the agency for less than four years. Both deputies were placed on paid administrative leave until the investigation is resolved.
Ivey revealed in his statement that Santiago-Miranda was the deputy who first opened fire on the car.
The sheriff said a third person in the vehicle “provided a thorough statement to FDLE that confirms the occupants of the vehicle heard the verbal commands of the deputy and that Crooms still turned the vehicle and accelerated.”
According to a statement obtained by WSVN, the state attorney’s office expressed its “sincere condolences to the family and friends of these two young men as they struggle to deal with this painful tragedy. We understand and share their desire to know what took place, and that every aspect of this incident will be carefully reviewed.”
A spokesperson from the office said the state attorney will “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 court.