2 Shooting Incidents Involving Orlando Police Under Review
By Walter Pacheco and Anika Myers Palm | Sentinel Staff Writers
Posted May 8, 2009
The use of deadly force on a suspect fleeing from police is never a decision taken lightly by law-enforcement officers.
Police and deputies sometimes have only seconds to decide if a suspect fits a narrow range of circumstances — an imminent, deadly danger to officers or the public — to determine if they should pull the trigger.
And when they do, authorities say, the outcome is usually deadly.
Three Orlando police officers are under investigation in two incidents in which one man was shot dead and a teen was injured by a bullet.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating two Orlando police officers after they shot and killed Vales Delices Jr., 23, as he fled from them Wednesday.
Officers had seconds to react after Delices plowed his car into Antigua nightclub on Church Street, slammed into several police cars and injured one person.
Although Delices has a criminal record that includes charges of fleeing and eluding, as well as hit-and-run with injuries, officers didn't know that when they shot at him.
"There are legitimate concerns with the officers' actions," said attorney Mark NeJame, who represents Delices' family. "If he had left the area and was heading toward Orange Avenue, why did he need to be shot?"
Orlando police also shot a teenager in the buttocks Wednesday near Pine Hills. Records show he ran from them during a chase. Officers recovered a loaded gun in that incident.
A woman who said she was his mother told WFTV-Channel 9 that her son carried the gun for protection and he ran from police because he may have been carrying marijuana and was on probation.
That officer also is under investigation.
Orlando police policy shows that officers use deadly force when the suspect is likely "to cause death or great bodily harm to the [officer] or another person."
Spokeswoman Sgt. Barbara Jones said the "actions of the suspect dictate the actions by the officer."
Jones could not speak about the two cases because they are under investigation.
But civilians think officers went too far when they fired at the fleeing suspects.
"What happened if the guy in the Antigua case lost control of his car after being shot and ran into a bunch of people?" asked Manny Marconi of Orlando. "What if [police] fired and injured an innocent bystander?"
Jasmine Rollings of Winter Park had similar concerns about an officer's use of deadly force.
"If someone is running from you, why would you shoot them?" she asked. "I don't see them posing a problem."
NeJame is not arguing law enforcement's duty to protect themselves and civilians, but he questions their policies in his client's case.
"Law enforcement should be held to the highest standard when using a firearm, especially when a death occurs," he said. "We are conducting an independent investigation to determine if the use of deadly force in this instance was appropriate and justifiable."
Experts said the decision to use deadly force remains in the hands of the officer.
"To some extent, it's situation-specific," University of Central Florida sociology professor Jay Corzine said. "But the primary [judgment] is always going to be whether this person is a potential risk to the lives of others, whether it's the police officer or someone else."
Source: Orlando Sentinel