Police Brutality

Pair of Teens Shot to Death by Deputies Mistaking Vehicle for Stolen Car

Dash cam footage surrounding the death of two teenagers shows moments leading up to the deadly confrontation. On November 13, Sincere Pierce, 18 and Angelo “A.J.” Crooms, 16 were in a car attempting to maneuver and turn in the direction of a deputy as he raised his weapon. Crooms was driving the car. Deputies, identified as Jafet Santiago-Miranda ad Carson Hendren, shouted seven times for Crooms to stop the car. Deputies believed that they were driving a stolen vehicle. The deadly shooting occurred in Cocoa, a coastal city about 46 miles southeast of Orlando. 

Pierce and Crooms were close friends. Pierce was known to be a creative individual, rapping, and recording music at a local studio. 

“He just liked to have fun. He was very creative,” said Cynthia Green, his aunt and adoptive mother. 

Crooms was also a bright individual, who enjoyed bumping music and laughing with his friends.

Pierce had been home earlier in the day on November 13. He had joined Crooms in his gray Volkswagen sedan, planning to head over to another friend’s home. 

Crooms had been driving his girlfriend’s car that day, according to family and attorneys. Deputies reportedly mistook this car with one that had been stolen. Dashcam footage shows the officer ordering them to exit the vehicle repeatedly, though it is unclear whether the teens heard him. Attorneys representing the families of Pierce and Crooms said that the video shows the teenagers “posed no threat” and believes that the teens may have panicked and tried to drive away when the officers approached them. When they did so, multiple shots were fired at the vehicle at close range. Both teens died. The entire incident unfolded in less than one minute. 

A press release about the shooting issued by the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office said the teens “fled from an attempted traffic stop,” but the dashcam video doesn’t suggest they tried to flee until split seconds before an officer opened fire at the car. The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office also released an edited and incomplete dashcam video of the shooting on its Facebook page.

“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. If anything, the deputy appears to have moved closer to the vehicle to get a better shot,” Ben Crump, the civil rights lawyer who is representing Pierce and Crooms said in part of a statement emailed to NewsOne. “The video shows that the deputy continued to fire shots into the side of the vehicle as it was passing him, after he was out of harm’s way. 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.”

Prosecutors have since ruled that the sheriff’s deputy was ‘justified’ in his use of deadly force because he feared the vehicle was going to strike him. Autopsy findings revealed that Pierce died from a single gunshot wound to the upper right anterior chest while Crooms died from three gunshot wounds, two penetrating, one grazed. The fatal shot was to the head. 

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