Kissimmee Target shooting: Grand jury says Osceola County Sheriff's Office should make more changes

A grand jury on Wednesday recommended the Osceola County Sheriff's Office to create, update and implement policies regarding tactical vehicle takedowns in the wake of a deadly deputy-involved shooting outside a Target in Kissimmee in 2022, according to a press release from the State Attorney's Office. 

A grand jury review of all shootings involving law enforcement officers was one of several policy changes Bain brought to the Ninth Judicial Circuit when he was appointed state attorney by Gov. Ron DeSantis after the governor suspended Bain's predecessor, Monique Worrell, on August 9. 

During a news conference in January, Bain explained that the grand jury would have an opportunity to weigh in on details that led to its decision and offer guidance for future cases. Now, the grand jury has revealed its findings. 

The grand jury said on Thursday that the two deputies' actions "did not rise to the level of criminal charges" but "ineffective and insufficient communication and training by the Osceola County Sheriff's Office needlessly created circumstances that resulted in a shooting that killed Jayden Baez, 21, and left two others injured. 

The shooting happened on April 27, 2022, in the parking lot of the Target store on U.S. Highway 192 in Kissimmee. According to an arrest affidavit, the Osceola County Sheriff's Office (OCSO) said its deputies were called to the Target store after receiving a report of two people suspected of shoplifting approximately $40 in pizza and Pokémon cards from the store. Surveillance video showed two people stealing items, according to OCSO. 

A "takedown" of four people was attempted in the parking lot, which ended with deputies firing their weapons. Jayden Baez, 20, was shot and later died at the hospital. Three others – Michael Gomez, Joseph Lowe, and Ian Joi – were injured. OCSO previously confirmed that deputies were conducting a training exercise in a nearby parking lot prior to the shooting. Those deputies were in tactical gear and did not have their body-worn cameras on due to the training, OCSO said.

Lowe and Gomez were initially charged with petty theft, but those charges were later dropped by prosecutors. 

The Osceola County Sheriff's Office has already changed some of its policies in wake of the shooting, like upgrading and requesting additional bodycams and utilizing different techniques for misdemeanors vs. felonies, but the grand jury says they didn't do enough. They recommended the following five areas where the sheriff's office needs to make improvements to make sure something similar never happens again:

  • Policy regarding surrounding circumstances before executing a vehicle block
  • Establish a policy specifying which offenses justify using a vehicle block that considers both the nature of the offense and the immediate danger the offender poses to law enforcement and the public
  • Communication and execution of the vehicle block
  • Deputies should be required to wear body-worn cameras when they anticipate the detention or arrest of a citizen
  • Make it clear in the updated vehicle block policy that it also applies to passengers in law enforcement vehicles as well as the drivers

"While (the State Attorney's Office) cannot force agencies to review, update or adopt the recommendations in the report, it is our hope that they review the presentment and make any necessary changes to bring their policies, training and procedures in line with these best practice recommendations," the press release said. 

Osceola Sheriff Marcos Lopez issued the following statement after the grand jury announced their findings:

"We want to thank the grand jury for their wisdom in clearing our deputies of all charges, their thoughtful consideration of this case, and for their recommendations. The decisions and recommendations from the grand jury are crucial to the overall mission of law enforcement. We will consider these recommendations and continue to support the men and women of our agency to better ensure the safety of the citizens of Osceola County."