By IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — A sheriff’s office released body camera footage Tuesday night from an arrest outside a Florida mall on Aug. 7, when deputies shot and killed a suspect who they say was running away and drew a gun.
The attorney representing the family of the slain man, Salaythis Melvin, 22, however, told ABC News the footage doesn’t entirely fit the police’s story and the officer’s use of force was unjustified.
Melvin was part of a group that was stopped by police outside the Florida Mall in Orange County. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office said one of the four suspects, who was not Melvin, had an arrest warrant and was wanted in connection for a shooting.
As authorities were attempting to arrest Melvin, he took off on foot and was pursued by Orange County Sheriff’s Office Agent James Montiel, according to a police affidavit. The deputy said he saw Melvin had a handgun in his waistband, according to a police affidavit.
Montiel allegedly told Melvin to drop his weapon, but Melvin kept running, according to the affidavit.
Montiel said Melvin turned his head and started to face him while holding the gun, which prompted the officer to shoot Melvin, the affidavit said. Melvin was struck in the back and later died in the hospital, police said.
One of the six videos released Tuesday shows another deputy drive toward the chase and Melvin is seen in the distance running before falling to the ground. At least four officers surround Melvin who is groaning in pain and they handcuff him before administering first aid.
During this time, one of the deputies is heard calling Melvin a racial slur. An ambulance doesn’t arrive on the scene until eight minutes after the shooting.
Bradley Laurent, an attorney representing Melvin’s family, told ABC News that the footage shows that he wasn’t a threat to the officers. Laurent, who has called for the release of the video for days, contended there is no indication that Melvin had his hand on the gun or was aiming at officers.
“When you look at the video, he was in a full sprint. He posed no threat to anyone,” he told ABC News.
The Orange County Sheriff’s Office acknowledged the allegations that one of its officers made “inappropriate comments” in a statement released on social media.
“OCSO is aware of allegations related to the body worn camera video that was released yesterday,” the sheriff’s office wrote. “It is alleged that a deputy on the video made inappropriate comments. At this time, we have initiated an inquiry into this matter. Once complete, we will make the results public.”
The entire shooting is under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the sheriff’s office would not provide further comment. Orange County Sheriff John Mina addressed the body camera videos during a news conference Tuesday night after he won reelection for his seat.
“We want to let [the FDLE] handle their investigation, but because of the public interest in this case, we made a decision in this agency that we would release bodycam video,” he said.
Mina added that once the investigation is complete, they will turn over the findings to the Florida Attorney General’s Office.
Laurent said Melvin’s family is calling for Montiel to be fired and they are mulling civil charges.
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