ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Following a month of protests over the death of Salaythis Melvin after he was shot by an Orange County deputy, 9 Investigates sat down with Sheriff John Mina to ask what’s changing and whether new policies could prevent other outcomes like this.
Melvin was shot in the back outside the Florida Mall in August as he ran from Deputy James Montiel. Montiel was part of a plainclothes unit serving a warrant on another man. Investigators said Melvin was reaching for a gun in his waistband and turned toward Montiel, before Montiel opened fire.
Mina said he is limited on what he can discuss with the case because the shooting is under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Mina expects that investigation to wrap up in about 60 days.
In the meantime, Mina did speak about policies that allowed Montiel to chase after Melvin, even though he was not the target of the warrant being served that day. Mina also spoke about policies that are being created, in part, as a result of the case.
We’ll never see the shooting of Salaythis Melvin from the view of the deputy who pulled the trigger, because he’s one of around 500 in the Orange County Sheriff’s Office that was not yet assigned a body camera. Mina pledged that’s changing as we speak.
“There are deputies this week getting body-worn cameras, so over the next several months there will be more and more deputies who receive those body-worn cameras,” Mina said. “The primary goal is to basically have every deputy who is having contact with the public, making arrests, to have body-worn cameras.”
Special units like the one involved in Melvin’s death are part of the next phase to receive those cameras.
That’s just part of what protesters have been calling for. In addition to more cameras being deployed, Mina said there will soon be policy dictating how quickly deputy-involved shootings are released to the public.
“We’re looking at policies from across the state of Florida and around the country,” Mina said.
Mina said that policy will be developed in conjunction with the Citizen’s Advisory Committee and FDLE.
FDLE will review the shooting before sending the results over to the State Attorney’s Office. Though Melvin was not the target of the warrant being served that day, Montiel still ran after him, prompting questions from the public about why Melvin was pursued in the first place.
“Even if the person is not the person you’re there to arrest, you can pursue them?” Channel 9 investigative reporter Karla Ray asked.
“It all depends. If the deputy develops probable cause, if the deputy has reasonable suspicion that person was involved in a crime, they can certainly chase that person on foot,” Mina said “There’s no specific policy on when you would need to stop chasing someone on foot, obviously all our training goes into effect, it’s what’s safest for you and the community at large.”