A Florida sheriff’s deputy is under investigation after fatally shooting two Black teenagers in a car that allegedly tried to run him over during a traffic stop nearly two weeks ago.
Cocoa residents Angelo Crooms, 16, and Sincere Pierce, 18, were killed during the Nov. 13 encounter with two Brevard County Sheriff’s officers, one of whom opened fire, according to The New York Times.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating while both deputies have been placed on paid administrative leave.
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Any criminal charges would be determined by the state attorney after the findings of the investigation are presented.
On the day of the shooting, Brevard deputies Jafet Santiago-Miranda and Carson Hendren were reportedly on the tail of a possible stolen vehicle that had “fled from another Deputy in the Cocoa area,” Sheriff Wayne Ivey wrote on Facebook.
A lawyer for the Pierce family, however, said the car occupied by the teens belonged to Crooms’ girlfriend and was not stolen, the Times reported.
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Police dashcam video of the incident, released four days later, showed two police cruisers following close behind the car as it pulled into a Cocoa neighborhood and then into the driveway of a home.
It was about 10:30 a.m., and it was not clear how long the deputies had been trailing the car.
Pierce family attorney Natalie A. Jackson said deputies never checked the license plates to confirm whether the vehicle was stolen.
Deputies parked on the street in front of the house and stepped out of their squad cars “in an attempt to make contact with the occupants,” Ivey said.
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As the officers approached, the suspect car began to back out of the driveway toward them, police allege.
Deputy Santiago-Miranda repeatedly yelled at the driver, who was later identified as Crooms, to “Stop the vehicle!”
Instead, the car moved toward the deputy, authorities said.
That’s when Santiago-Miranda opened fire “in an attempt to stop the deadly threat of the car from crashing into him,” police alleged, according to the Times.
On police footage, at least eight shots can be heard striking the car.
Santiago-Miranda was the only deputy to fire his service weapon, according to sheriff’s office spokesman Tod Goodyear.
Crooms and Pierce were transported to nearby hospitals, where they both were pronounced dead.
Police later reportedly found two firearms inside the car.
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An unidentified third person riding with the teens was not injured and was let go after being interviewed by police.
Civil attorney Benjamin Crump, a familiar voice in the crusade against police shootings around the country, has signed on to represent the families in the matter, the Times reported.
Crump said on Twitter the teens were “terrified” at the presence of the deputies and were only trying to drive around them.
“Out of harm’s way, the deputy moved closer to get a better shot” and fired with the “intent to kill,” and “then kept firing as the car passed by,” Crump wrote.
Croom’s father, Eric Smith, described his son as a “good kid” who loved sports and had been trying to figure out his next steps in life.
“It’s obvious what we’re looking for — justice,” Smith said. “We’re looking for answers. There’s nothing justifiable about what the Brevard County sheriffs did.”
Cynthia Green, who is Pierce’s great-aunt and legal guardian, said the teens were leaving her house that morning when she noticed the deputies drive by.
On a premonition, she decided to follow the teens in her own car, where moments later she watched as officers drew their guns.
“Please, don’t shoot! Please, don’t shoot! My baby’s in that car!” she recalled screaming, according to the Times.
Green said the car was turning away from the officer when he opened fire.
“My baby left home at 10:31, and at 10:33 he was dead,” Green said. “That man just kept shooting.”
Pierce, who was affectionately known as Spud, enjoyed music and cracking jokes, Green said.
“Sincere was a lovable child,” she said. “And he was one of the best dancers as a little child I could ever imagine.”