Florida Man Detains Black Teen, Wrongfully Accuses Him Of Stealing Bike, Then Tells 911 He Was Breaking Into Cars
The state attorney’s office described the teen as “visibly shaken and hyperventilating when deputies arrived.”
August 3, 2020
A routine bike ride to basketball practice turned into a terrifying ordeal for a Black teenager in Florida. According to News Channel 8, 54-year-old Luis Santos was charged with false imprisonment on Saturday after illegally detaining a teen riding his bike in the early morning on June 9. Santos is accused of racially profiling the boy and holding him against his will in Seffner, Florida. Cell phone video obtained by Channel 8 captured the confrontation.
The man in the video approaches the teen and tells him “you’re not going anywhere.” He then asks the teen for his address and questions his reason for riding a bike so early in the morning.
“You’re being detained,” Santos said before getting out of his car to stop the teen.
“I’m sorry,” the teen said
“You’re sorry?” he replied.
The 54-year-old called 911 after detaining the young man, saying “I have somebody breaking into cars. We have it on video.” The 911 operator then asked for his race. “He’s a Black guy,” the man said.
After accusing the teen of stealing the bike, Santos identified himself as an off-duty officer to the 911 operator. Santos was arrested after the office of Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren filed the false imprisonment charge.
“Santos made misleading statements to law enforcement about what he had witnessed,” Warren’s office said in an email to Channel 8. “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.” The state attorney’s office described the teen as “visibly shaken and hyperventilating when deputies arrived, with his hands still over his head.” “He reasonably believed his life may be in jeopardy if he tried to leave or even move,” Warren’s office said. “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.”
The teenager, who has requested to remain anonymous, got a ride from a Hillsborough sheriff’s deputy after the incident and went to practice. Police said no crimes were committed by the young man. “We don’t want people taking the law into their own hands,” Warren told the news station. “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.”
Titus O’Neil, a former WWE star, is serving as a spokesman for the college-bound teen. “I am speaking and advocating as a friend and supporter of a young Black teenager who was the victim of a racial profiling incident by a private citizen in Seffner, Florida,” O’Neil said in a statement. “The victim is a very respectful young man who is an excellent student-athlete preparing to go to college.” According to The Washington Post, Santos is a former security guard, but his security guard certification and firearm license expired a week before he confronted the teen.