Family of Immokalee man killed by deputies in 2020 to sue sheriff’s office

Published: August 10, 2022 11:14 AM EDT
Updated: August 11, 2022 10:35 AM EDT

The family of an Immokalee man killed by a Collier County Sheriff’s deputy in 2020 will announce a federal lawsuit against the sheriff’s office on Thursday.

Nicolas Morales, 37, was shot by deputies on September 17, 2020, after they say he came at them garden sheers.

Deputies responded to the area of Edenfield Way in Immokalee early in the morning that September for a report of a disturbance and a man with a shovel banging on people’s doors.

According to deputies, Morales had garden shears and a shovel in his hands when they approached him. They said he dropped the shovel and were unsure if the garden shears were a knife or a gun.

Since the shooting, a citizens review panel and an internal investigation by the Collier County Sheriff’s Office deemed the shooting was a justified and reasonable response to the situation.

Morales’ family disagrees. They are set to announce a lawsuit against the three deputies involved. According to a press release from Morales’ family, Corporal Pierre Jean, Corporal Nathan Kirk, and Deputy Brian Tarazona will be named in the lawsuit.

The family said it would also be naming Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk in the lawsuit, saying he “perpetuated a culture of violence and impunity within the CCSO.”

“We need more transparency about what happened to Nicolas,” Jesse Andrade, Nicolas Morales’ step-son and the plaintiff in the lawsuit said in the press release. “The Sheriff’s Office is trying to sweep this case under the rug but for us, what happened to Nicolas two years ago feels like it just happened yesterday. We are here and we are still fighting for justice from one of the richest counties in Florida. They have to answer to the people for killing a member of our family. Farmworkers are human beings and we demand to be treated like human beings.”

Nicholas morales
Nicolas Morales Credit: WINK NEWS

Morales’ family says he was suffering from a mental health crisis and looking for help the night he was killed.

The family says Corporal Jean shot Morales three times before Corporal Kirk released a K-9 that mauled an already gravely injured Morales.

Morales’ family claims that the officers used excessive force and failed to follow CCSO policies on de-escalation and dealing with a mental health crisis.

FGCU professor and retired police officer David Thomas says the lawsuit has no chance. “I mean, it was a justifiable use of deadly force.”

WINK News asked the Collier County Sheriff’s Office for comment on the lawsuit announcement. The sheriff’s office said, “We cannot comment on pending litigation. We can tell you that a death investigation, an independent review by the State Attorney’s Office and an investigation by our Professional Responsibility Bureau all determined that the deputies’ actions were justifiable and were within both policy and the law.”

You can read the Morales family’s full press release about the lawsuit below or by clicking here.

Click to access Press-Release_Morales-Family-Lawsuit.pdf