ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — A trial that began Tuesday against a man shot by Orange County deputies in 2021 appears to rapidly be moving toward a conclusion, with prosecutors resting their case. The defendant declined to testify on his own behalf.
Avery Williams is facing decades in prison if convicted of aggravated assault against two deputies during an officer-involved shooting in 2021.
Deputies said Williams attacked his brother over a woman, then both men began hitting the woman for filming their fight. When deputies arrived, Williams ran away, and shots rang out.
At the time of the incident, Sheriff John Mina said Williams shot first, and deputies returned fire. However, three deputies who testified Tuesday said Williams did not shoot his gun.
Prosecutors instead focused on video showing Williams pointing his gun at one deputy and refusing to comply with their commands.
“I felt shocked, and then it turned to fear because I thought he was going to kill me,” one deputy said.
Expert witnesses from FDLE later testified Williams was unable to shoot at the deputies because his pistol had a round chambered backwards, and sand was jamming the gun’s trigger.
With body camera evidence from all three deputies – plus the stipulation that Williams was the man seen on the videos – the case could have been easy for a jury to decide. However, prosecutors had two things working against them.
First, the trainee deputy who initially spotted the weapon and shot Williams first – Charles Cruz – was arrested earlier this year for child sex crimes, throwing his credibility into question.
Cruz’s state charges have since been dismissed, which defense attorneys pointed out, but he still faces federal charges.
The second was the fact that Williams didn’t shoot any of the deputies. Defense attorneys kept indicating he was not a threat, and deputies overreacted.
“He turns and flails his arms, but there’s no firearm in his hand,” Public Defender Christie Fekany said. “Everything happens real fast.”
Williams, who remains wheelchair-bound, was offered a plea deal last year that would’ve had him serve 15 years for the assault charges. However, deputies opposed it, pitting Mina against then-State Attorney Monique Worrell.
Some of the county’s most experienced prosecutors oversaw Tuesday’s testimony, with other staff members looking on, a sign that newly appointed State Attorney Andrew Bain hopes to win this case and cement a relationship with law enforcement.
The other charges against Williams involving his family members were dropped.
The six-person jury of three men and three women is expected to begin deliberations sometime Wednesday morning, with a verdict likely handed down by the end of the day.
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