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No recommendations from citizen panel after deputy-involved shooting

Posted at 1:47 AM, Dec 02, 2021

NAPLES, Fla. — A citizen review panel is not recommending any policy changes after a deadly deputy-involved shooting.

That shooting happened last year in Immokalee, when Cpl. Pierre Jean with the Collier County Sheriff's Office shot and killed Nicolas Morales in the Farm Worker Village.

The panel re-watched the dash camera footage of the shooting Wednesday night, that ended in Morales' death in September of last year.

A group of advocates with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) came out to the meeting in Naples to support Morales' step-son, Jesus Andrade, and to speak on Morales’ behalf.

But throughout the two hour meeting, they never got the chance.

"We try to come out here as a community and try to tell them, prove a point and try to get our voice out, but we couldn’t even do that," said Andrade.

Not only was there no public comment allowed, but our cameras were also not allowed in the room. During the meeting, the dash cam video of Morales’ death was played again.

The panel found that deputies did nothing wrong in shooting him because Morales moved toward deputies with a pair of gardening shears in his hand.

But Andrade said he believes there were alternatives.

“They had a canine unit right there. What did he say the canine is used for? To deescalate to stop the perpetrator. Why didn’t they release the canine first?” said Andrade.

Instead, Cpl. Nathan Kirk released the police dog shortly after Morales was shot and fell to the ground. The dog can be seen on video tearing at Morales' shoulder, and Kirk struggled to get the dog to let go.

After the meeting, we spoke with Nely Rodriguez with the CIW. She said they were disappointed in the result of the panel.

"We thought that it would be an opportunity for another group to see and to understand what we saw from the very beginning, that the death of Nicolas was in no way justified, and so we are where we were at the beginning," said Rodriguez.

The State's Attorney's office has also concluded Cpl. Jean should not be charged for Morales' death, but the CIW tells us it doesn't plan to let those setbacks keep them from seeking change.

"We have to take this back to the community, talk about it, and figure out what our next steps will be as a community," said Rodriguez.

"Collier County ain’t going to hear the last of us. We’re not going to let them get away this easy. So we’re going to fight and we’re going to fight hard," said Andrade.

This decision now marks three separate times the deputies involved have been found to have been justified in their use of deadly force. First through the Sheriff’s Office internal investigation, then by the State Attorney, and finally by the Citizen Review Panel.

One thing we did learn at the meeting was that all deputies on-scene that night had Crisis Intervention Training, but a deputy spoke saying there is no requirement to use deescalation tactics when a deadly weapon is involved.

We personally asked each of the citizen members of the panel if they wanted to speak after the vote, but they declined.