During his sentencing hearing on Tuesday, a judge encouraged a Florida man accused of racial profiling after he held a Black teenager on suspicion of stealing to watch Ava DuVernay’s 13th documentary.
After pleading guilty to one count of assault with prejudice, Circuit Judge Lyann Goudie sentenced Luis Orlando Santos Santiago, 56, to one-year probation and 25 hours of community service, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The accused individual can utilize the Netflix documentary to fulfill some of his community service requirements.
According to Face2Face Africa, the incident occurred in June of last year, when Santiago challenged an 18-year-old Black kid who was riding his bike to basketball practice. Santiago also claimed to be an off-duty cop throughout the stressful interaction, which was incorrect.
Santiago, a war veteran, consented to go and complete anger management and implicit bias programs in addition to probation and community service. He must also write an apology letter to the adolescent.
Judge Lyann Goudie mentioned Santiago’s military background during his sentence hearing, saying that he should have realized the value of treating people equally regardless of ethnicity. She also expressed her inability to understand what it’s like to be profiled due to your skin tone.
“Unfortunately, this is a typical occurrence for Black people,” Goudie remarked. “Which is why so many people are protesting. That is correct.”
After that, Goudie suggested Santiago see Ava DuVernay’s Emmy-winning documentary. The documentary, which is named after the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, examines the “criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom” from the post-Civil War era to the present.
The judge stated, “It’s a really enlightening portrayal of the Black experience in the United States of America.” Santiago’s attorney, Michelle Borton, said the 56-year-old “feels” the confrontation “was not due to racial profiling” despite the circumstances of last year’s event. “Right now, we don’t want to quarrel over that. He simply wants to get on with his life and make amends for what he has done.”
The victim’s mother said the event left her son emotionally traumatized in a statement read in court. At the time of the confrontation, the victim was 18 years old. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the victim’s mother remarked, “As an African American mother, we have to have difficult conversations with our Black boys, about defusing situations, about keeping your hands up if you are stopped, and cooperating even if you did nothing wrong.”
“This is ludicrous, yet it is unavoidable in our community. I hope that others hear this and that the narrative of young Black guys being judged changes. My son is a clever, well-liked collegiate athlete who has a promising career ahead of him. Despite the fact that this occurrence caused him considerable distress, it did not break him.
The post went on to say, “Please utilize this scenario as a learning tool to not condemn others based on their appearance.”
“However, please mind your own business when it comes to matters that do not affect you or your property.”
What went wrong?
The Black teen was riding his bike to basketball practice in the early hours of June 9, 2020, when Santiago stopped him and began questioning him. The altercation took place in a Seffner area.
In a cell phone video taken by Santiago, the suspect is seen coming up with the adolescent and inquiring if he works or lives in the area. The adolescent informs Santiago where he lives and gives him his address when asked, but Santiago detains him, telling him, “You’re not going anywhere.”
In the video, Santiago adds, “You’re being held,” to which the boy responds, “I’m sorry.”
After that, Santiago dialed 911 and informed the dispatcher, “I have someone breaking into cars.” We have video of it.” When queried about the teen’s color, the suspect said the teen is a “Black person,” according to WFLA. The adolescent was not charged with the offenses, according to the state attorney.
While on the phone, Santiago yelled at the adolescent, telling him, “You remain right where you are!” and telling the operator, “I think he stole one of the bikes.” Santiago allegedly informed the 911 operator he was an off-duty police.
According to a statement from the state attorney’s office at the time, “the evidence suggests the victim did not commit any crime and Santos made inaccurate statements to law authorities about what he had witnessed.” “The young man felt scared and was unable to flee, while Santos acted as if he had the legal authority of a police officer, ordering the victim to put his hands in the air until sheriff’s deputies arrived.”
“What happened that morning should upset everyone in our community,” state attorney Andrew Warren said in a statement to WFLA. We have highly trained police officers on staff. We don’t need vigilantes on the streets confronting people.”
Prosecutors claim that throughout the incident, Santiago compelled the youngster to raise his hands while he (Santiago) had his hand near his pocket, implying that he was armed. Officers arrived at the scene and determined that the teen, who appeared disturbed, had done nothing wrong. When officers examined his backpack, they only discovered a basketball, a jump rope, and gym sneakers, according to WFTS.
Officers attached the teen’s bike to the patrol car and drove him to his basketball session to help him relax. Later, Santiago was apprehended and charged with false imprisonment.