Collier County Sheriff’s deputies have been cleared again. A citizens review panel on Wednesday agreed with investigators that the deputies were justified after shooting Nicolas Morales in Immokalee last year.
The deputies say Morales came at them with garden shears and they were forced to shoot.
During the review panel meeting on Wednesday the community saw and heard all of the little details of this case including the video of Morales getting shot slowed down and repeated.
The Citizen’s Review Panel is made up of seven citizens and five deputies.
Those on the panel were the only ones to talk during the meeting and the only ones who decided the deputy’s shots were justified.
The voices we didn’t get to hear from are those who love and care about Morales.
The fatal shot still haunts Jesus Andrade. Morales is his stepfather. “What happened that night wasn’t supposed to happen”
He walked through the doors to the meeting with a heart full of hope. Hope he could bring good news to his little brother who is now an orphan.
“I just wanna let them know we’re here you know what I’m saying like let them know we didn’t forget. We want some change, we want them to show some sympathy.”
Deputies didn’t allow cameras in the meeting.
Law enforcement’s argument that the shooting was justified; there was no time to de-escalate the situation.
Morales had a shovel in his left hand and garden shears in his right. When Morales turned toward them he dropped the shovel but the shears are still in hand.
Deputies couldn’t tell if the shears were a gun or a knife. They had to make a decision in a matter of seconds. Seven other citizens agreed with that.
“So he had the shears and maybe a shovel, but they got guns, K-9s, tasers, they’re more accessible to deadly force than he is,” said Andrade.
Andrade says this battle is far from over. “We’re gonna fight and we’re going to fight hard and we ain’t gonna stop until we get something out of it you know what I’m saying.”
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is supporting Andrade in continuing that fight.
They believe there’s still more to challenge like; why did the deputies get so close to approaching Morales? Why didn’t they use tasers? Why didn’t the K-9 get released first as a de-escalation tactic?
Something law enforcement mentioned multiple times on Wednesday was when deputies pulled up on the scene, the only information they knew about Morales was from the dispatch call.
He was banging on a stranger’s door with a shovel at 1 a.m.