In what the state attorney says appears to be a case of racial profiling, a Florida man was charged with false imprisonment after he illegally detained a Black teenager who was on his way to basketball practice, News Channel 8 reports.
The office of Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren has filed a false imprisonment charge against 54-year-old Luis Santos. He was arrested Saturday.
According to the office, the unidentified teenager was headed to basketball practice on his bicycle at 5:34 a.m. on June 9 along Lake Shore Ranch Drive.
Santos is accused of stopping the teen and holding him against his will.
“The evidence shows the victim had not committed any crime and Santos made misleading statements to law enforcement about what he had witnessed,” Warren’s office said in an email. “The young man felt threatened and was not free to leave, while Santos acted as though he had the legal authority of a law enforcement officer, including compelling the victim to put his hands in the air until sheriff’s deputies arrived.”
Cell phone video provided to News Channel 8 shows Santos pull up to the teen and begins to grill him about his home address and asks why he is on his bicycle so early in the morning.
When the teen told Santos his address, Santos got out the car and told him, “You’re not going anywhere,” and that he’s being “detained.”
“You’re being detained,” the man says in the video that he recorded.
He then gets out of his vehicle and detains the boy.
“I’m sorry,” the teen says.
“You’re sorry?” Santos asks.
Later, Santos called 911 and said, “I have somebody breaking into cars. We have it on video.”
When a 911 operator asks the teen’s race, the man replies, “he’s a Black guy.”
The state attorney’s office said the teen was never accused of that crime.
“You stay right where you at!” the man yells at the teen, as heard on the 911 call.
“I think he stole one of the bikes,” Santos said to the 911 operator.
He later identified himself to the 911 operator as an off-duty officer.
“What happened that morning should upset everyone in our community,” Warren said in a statement to 8 On Your Side. “We have skilled police officers. We don’t need vigilantes confronting people on the street.”
According to prosecutors, Santos also ordered the teen to put his hands up and held his hand near his pocket, perhaps attempting to indicate that he had a gun.
“The victim was visibly shaken and hyperventilating when deputies arrived, with his hands still over his head,” Warren’s office said. “He reasonably believed his life may be in jeopardy if he tried to leave or even move. Santos had no lawful authority to restrain a person in a public place and his own recorded words establish that he was restraining the victim, by threat, against his will.”
False imprisonment is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison if convicted.
“We don’t want people taking the law into their own hands. We charged the case here because there is evidence he committed a crime and because it serves the purpose of showing that we’re not going to tolerate vigilantes, who are accosting people, especially when they’re doing it just based on how that person looks,” Warren said in an interview with 8 On Your Side.