ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Update: The Orange County Sheriff’s Office tweeted the following statement:
Body camera video from a deadly deputy-involved shooting outside of the Florida Mall has raised more questions than answers for the family of Salaythis Melvin.
Orange County Deputy James Montiel said Melvin, 22, turned his head toward him with his hand on a gun in his waistband. The video doesn't clearly show that because the footage that was released is from another deputy's body camera.
Officials said for some reason, the deputy who shot Melvin wasn’t wearing a body camera.
In an email, a spokesperson from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said Montiel has been assigned to the Juvenile Arrest and Monitor (JAM) unit since February 2019, and is not issued a camera. He is currently on administrative leave with pay.
9 Investigates reviewed this body camera video frame by frame, and we froze the moment captured before Melvin was shot and killed by an Orange County deputy. At 39 seconds into the video, you can see on a responding deputy’s camera Melvin running full speed away from Montiel.
When we freeze the video, you can see the distance between the two. Not even a second later, Melvin is shot in the back, falling instantly, holding one hand up and then stretching both arms flat on the ground.
“It’s clear that Salaythis Melvin was not a threat. It’s clear that he was running, he was just trying to get away,” Attorney Brad Lauren said.
At least four deputies can be seen standing around Melvin with their guns drawn, shouting expletives at him, as they demand that he keep his hands up. Nearly two minutes pass before a deputy rolls him over and there is a scramble for medical supplies. When a deputy finds a pulse, another suggests they don't need to perform CPR.
And about five minutes into the video, the attorneys for Melvin question whether he was called a racial slur, as he was on the ground. " We hope to get it to an expert and try to have them get rid of some of the background noise,” Carlus Haynes said.
The sheriff’s office issued a statement on Twitter Wednesday stating that it was aware of allegations that a deputy made inappropriate comments in the body camera footage. The department said it has launched an inquiry into the allegations and will make its findings public.
Sheriff John Mina, who won the Democratic primary this week in his bid to keep his position, initially refused to release the video, citing the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into the shooting. Public protests and pressure from the family forced the release. And, so far, since its release, the department hasn’t yet fulfilled public records requests related to the deputy involved, or answered specific questions about the circumstances surrounding the shooting and what’s seen in the video from the deadly incident.
Mina briefly addressed it when asked during a virtual news conference after he won the primary election.
“Our state attorney will make a determination, and when it’s all said and done, we will get it back to see if any policies are violated. So again, it’s their investigation, and I’m going to leave it at that,” Mina said.
The attorneys representing Melvin’s family challenged Mina to implement new policies related to officers not in clear uniform and unmarked cars serving search warrants. In the videos we reviewed, we couldn’t clearly see the sheriff’s office logo or other identifying uniform items on the deputy who shot Melvin. Based on further review, the family attorney believes Montiel changed his attire into a sheriff’s office shirt that clearly showed he was with the sheriff’s office.
“Somebody told him to do that” Attorney Carlus Haynes said during a news conference Wednesday.
The family’s attorneys are also continuing their demands that the office automatically release body camera video in officer shootings as part of transparency. Mina said last week that he is working to develop a policy on when to release body camera videos, but nothing has been released publicly on that.
Melvin’s parents did not speak at the news conference Wednesday. They sent a statement through their attorney, which read in part, “At the time of his death he was not a saint, however he was a member of our family.”
The family plans to file a lawsuit in his case as soon as more evidence can be gathered.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous online version of this story reported that the family attorney raised questions about whether the deputy changed his attire after the shooting. Our review of the video doesn’t clearly show that.
Cox Media Group