COCOA, Fla. - Criminal charges will not be filed against a Brevard County deputy who fatally shot two teens in November 2020.
The families of the two teens are demanding justice after the State Attorney’s Office announced they will not be pursuing criminal charges against the deputy.
The family’s attorney says they will be filing a civil lawsuit against the Sheriff’s Office and Deputy Miranda.
In November 2020, 16-year-old Angelo "AJ" Crooms and 18-year-old Sincere Pierce were shot and killed when Deputy Miranda opened fire during an attempted stop.
Dashboard camera video captured the moment as the deputy is seen with gun drawn yelling, "Stop the vehicle! Stop! Stop!"
Then in the background is the voice of Cynthia Green, Sincere Pierce’s grandmother.
"My baby’s in the car!" she yelled.
"I keep seeing it over and over again in my sleep," Green said at a news conference.
According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) report, a deputy attempted to stop the gray Volkswagon with dark-tinted windows that morning, but it fled. The deputy checked the plates and was told by dispatch that the car had been reported stolen.
More deputies, including Deputy Miranda, were radioed in to assist. Soon, after spotting the suspected stolen vehicle, they followed it with lights flashing for several streets until turning to block the road as the car pulled in and out of a driveway.
Deputy Miranda told investigators when the vehicle did not obey his commands and accelerated toward him near the curb, he feared for his life and discharged his weapon.
But the attorney for the family doesn’t see it that way.
"The wheels are clearly turned away from the officer and I feel that this was a senseless killing of teenagers," attorney Natalie Jackson said. "The officer could have simply stepped aside and did not have to shoot into this vehicle."
State Attorney Phil Archer said under Florida Law there is no duty to retreat and said the deputy was stepping backward vas he was firing at the 3,000-pound deadly weapon coming toward him.
For the first time, we are hearing from the only surviving person inside the car at the time of the shooting.
Jaquan Kimbrough-Rucker, 20, was in the passenger seat of the gray Volkswagon. He told investigators he, Crooms, and Pierce all heard the deputy’s commands even with their music playing.
In an audio recording with investigators from the day of the shooting, he said, "They kept yelling at him and telling him to stop."
"He said ‘sit back’ that’s what he told me."
"Sit back?" the investigator asked.
"Yeah," he said."Why would he tell you that?" the investigator asked.
"Like, sit back, I’m driving," he said.
"If the car’s not stolen and you guys aren’t doing anything, why do you think AJ would take off?" the investigator asked.
"He doesn’t have his license," he said.
The State Attorney’s Office said while deputies stopped the car believing it was a vehicle reported stolen that morning, it was not the same car.
"He tried to go around and the police officer shoots," Kimbrough-Rucker said.
Pierce’s grandmother was right behind the deputies when it all happened.
"You don’t just open fire on a car with kids in it," Cynthia Green said.
According to the FDLE report, Deputy Miranda and the other deputies on the scene were the first to render aid to the teenage boys with gunshot wounds. Two firearms were later found inside the car, according to investigators.
In part of the state attorney’s 12-page statement about the case and the decision not to charge Deputy Miranda, Archer wrote, "I know my decision today does nothing to lessen the horrific impact on the surviving families of Mr. Crooms and Mr. Pierce… but my responsibility is to set aside feelings of emotion or sympathy and make a decision based solely on the facts and evidence."
Alton Edmond, an attorney who previously ran against Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey, released a statement on State Attorney Archer's decision. It read:
"Just a day after the world celebrated a tremendous triumph of justice and push forward into a justice system that holds all accountable regardless of their race, color, creed or profession, State Attorney Phil Archer showed that he lacks the fortitude to take a real stand the double standards that have poisoned our justice system for far too long. I cannot imagine what the families of those young men must be experiencing to know that their State Attorney will not even allow a grand jury to make the decision as to what the fate of their children’s killer should be."
"I understand how reasonable minds could differ in opinion as to whether the shooting of a driver of a vehicle moving slowly in the direction of an officer as he steps in front of the vehicle to put himself in harm’s way could possibly be justified. What is impossible for me to understand is how one could justify the killing of an unarmed, teenaged passenger of that misidentified vehicle without so much as a thought to the culpable negligence involved in the commission of such an act. What is impossible for me to understand is how one could justify the trauma that the unarmed, surviving passenger might have been subjected to when he witnessed this and believed that he would die also without so much as a simple assault charge levied upon the perpetrator of this act."
"Phil Archer has chosen politics above duty and has raised such affiliations above the pursuit of justice which is the only duty for which taxpayers pay him well over $150,000.00 year to execute. I ask readers to put themselves in the shoes of the parents involved. I ask reader to imagine how they would feel if their child’s car was misidentified in a crime and their child was killed as a result with absolutely no recourse for their killer."
"I eagerly await the news of a challenger to support in the race against Phil Archer in the 2024 election cycle. I will also set my running shoes by the door tonight, should duty compel me to do that which is patently necessary myself."
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