The state attorney’s office will not charge Hendry County deputies involved in the May shooting of two Black men who threatened to sue the agency.
A review of an investigation into the shootings of Tyrone Reed and LaTravis Williams determined that deputies Nestor Echevarria, Michael Afonso and Sergio Bustamante were legally justified in using deadly force based on Williams’ actions that precipitated the incident.
Deputies had responded to the scene of a block party in LaBelle in the early hours of May 17 after reports of shots fired in the area of Kissimmee Avenue and Selma Daniels Avenue. An investigation conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement found that Williams was seen running and ducking behind a car while in possession of a small handgun.
According to the investigation, after Williams did not follow commands and came out running, deputies opened fire, striking Williams, and hit Tyrone Reed.
The second hail of gunfire deputies heard was also later determined not to have come from Williams, according to a memo released by the state attorney’s office.
Before the state attorney’s office’s completed its review of the incident, attorneys for Reed and Williams had announced that they intended to sue the agency for their injuries.
Investigators said Williams gave three statements, including one where he said the incident was his fault and another where he “retreated” from previous comments about hearing deputies’ commands and “throwing of the gun and officers’ fear.”
In reviewing the evidence, assistant state attorney Anothony Kunasek wrote in a memo to State Attorney Amira Fox, 20th Judicial Circuit, that the deputies “reasonably perceived and believed death or great bodily harm was imminent and were therefore justified in the use of deadly force to stop the potential threat.”
As to the shooting of Reed, Kunasek wrote in the memo that while it was “unfortunate,” the actions of the deputies did not rise to the level of criminal intent because the deputies lacked intent to cause harm against him.
Kunasek also noted that the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office had submitted a summons request to charge Williams with resisting an officer without violence, which is being reviewed by state attorney’s office.
Attempts to reach Williams’ attorney, Joe North, were not successful Thursday evening.
Reed’s attorney, Scot Goldberg, said that while he has not seen the state attorney’s office’s report the office did call him about its decision.
“It’s more blows to our constitution,” Goldberg said.
He added that the state attorney’s office’s decision would have no impact on a civil case Reed is pursuing against the agency, which he said would be filed this month.
Connect with reporter Devan Patel: @DevanJPatel (Twitter) or firstname.lastname@example.org