ORLANDO, Fla. — Izzy Colon loved sports; his obituary described a passion for the professional teams in New York and New Jersey. Four years after his death, it's still online: a memory of a son, brother and father killed in a shooting that involved undercover Orlando police officers.
On Feb. 4, 2015, two undercover narcotics officers were involved in a separate investigation at the Palmas Altas apartments on Semoran Boulevard when they said Colon and another man fired guns into the air.
Colon was fatally injured; the other man arrested. He was 37 years old. %
What followed was standard for an officer-involved shooting. The officers were put on administrative leave while the department and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated. They were cleared, the shooting was declared justified.
But when it came time to voluntarily report the shooting to the state of Florida -- it was a no go. 9 Investigates investigative reporter Daralene Jones found at least five deadly encounters with Orlando police, including the shooting of Izzy Colon, that were not reported to the state. This information was uncovered during a six month review of fatal law enforcement-involved shootings in Florida between the years 2007 and 2017.
"I thank you for looking into this."
"We want to be transparent,"
told Jones when they spoke on-camera about the review. %
"We want to be proactive and I thank you for looking into this because it did highlight a discrepancy that we are now going to be able to address moving forward," he said, "We're going to go back 10 years at least to try to figure out how many cases we could have that potentially have not been updated."
WFTV found the issue while creating a database, cross referencing state homicide records with media reports, including a Washington Post database about deadly police shootings
Our records show about 590 deaths over 10 years. But we also found about 70 cases that were not reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. We also learned there are likely more unreported cases because only about 390 of 402 law enforcement agencies report crime data to the state agency. FDLE ultimately sends it to the FBI.
"That can potentially modify the way we do business."
The federal program is voluntary, but Rolan believes that is why it's critical.
"That can potentially modify the way we do business. Not only the racial makeup of the individuals involved, what were the circumstances that led to that potential shootings, could anything have been done differently to prevent it from escalating," he told Jones. %
The chief also pointed out that OPD was the first agency in the state to publish all of its officer-involved shooting data to include the outcome of investigations on its open data website.
9 Investigates reached out to other agencies that did not report their own deadly shootings.
In an email to Jones, a spokesperson with the Palm Bay Police Department said they reviewed the uniform crime data when we asked about three separate shootings that occurred in 2015 and 2016. The department's review found the shootings were 'erroneously omitted' from the supplemental homicide report and they contacted FDLE to amend their data.
Most brushed it off as clerical error and other are still looking into it. The Brevard County Sheriff's Office told Jones they don't report shootings that are considered justified.
Earlier this month, the FBI launched an initiative to capture those numbers. Called the National Use-of-Force Data Collection, its mission as described on its website is to 'provide an aggregate view of the incidents reported and the circumstances, subjects and officers involved.' However, law enforcement departments are not required to participate or share their data, so it remains voluntary.
Meanwhile, some civil rights groups are advocating that change and reporting be mandatory.
As for the police officers patrolling the streets of Orlando, Rolon says it's a demanding job, 24 hours a day.
"The kids and the members of this profession now, they're just going from call to call to call."
To contact Daralene Jones about this report, click here.
Cox Media Group