The Florida police officers who killed two Black teenagers in a hail of bullets shot at the car they were driving in last week are defending the shooting despite dashcam footage that suggests the officers didn’t need to resort to lethal force.
Ben Crump, the civil rights lawyer who is representing the families of Sincere Pierce, 18, and A.J. Crooms, 16, said the video shows the teenagers “posed no threat.” But the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office said the teens were being pulled over about “a possible stolen car” before the teens tried to flee, which “forced” an officer to open fire. The department pointed to the video as proof of its claims.
The dashcam video from the scene shows at least one officer repeating orders for them to exit the vehicle, but it was unclear if the teenagers heard him.
Crump suggested that Pierce and Crooms may have panicked and tried to drive away. When they did, multiple shots were fired at the vehicle at close range, killing both teens in Cocoa, a coastal city about 46 miles southeast of Orlando. The deadly encounter unfolded in less than one minute.
The teens’ family have said the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office hasn’t given them any information about the shooting, Florida Today reported. 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 released an edited and incomplete dashcam video of the shooting on its Facebook page. Please exercise discretion when viewing as the brief footage is graphic.
Crump described Crooms and Pierce as “terrified” when they “drove around deputies who approached the vehicle with guns drawn.” He encouraged people to “Believe your own eyes” when watching the video of the shooting.
“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,” Crump 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.”
There was no announcement from the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office about whether the car the teens were in was actually stolen or if there were any weapons recovered from the car.
Noting that the dashcam video may have been edited to fit the police narrative, Crump appealed to the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office to release the raw footage and asked: “anyone with additional video evidence, including neighbors with home surveillance cams, to come forward so that we can have a clearer picture of the facts in this case.”
The episode in Coca was reminiscent of another “driving while Black” police shooting in suburban Chicago last month when an unarmed Black teen was killed and his girlfriend wounded following a questionable encounter under suspicious circumstances. In that instance, Marcellis Stinnette, 19, died in the shooting in the Illinois city of Waukegan that police claimed only happened because the car he was a passenger in reversed toward the officer who shot them. However, witnesses said the police officer hit them with his car before he opened fire.