IMMOKALEE — We’re hearing mixed reactions from the Immokalee community, after video of a deadly shooting was released.
Nicolas Morales Bessannia was shot and killed in the Farm Worker Village last September by Collier County deputies responding to a 9-1-1 call. There is still a memorial set up in his honor near the spot where he died.
At the time, deputies told us Bessannia had a pair of gardening shears in his hand, and in the dash cam video, you can see him hold something shiny.
In the video, the deputy asked Bessannia to get on the ground a total of eight times before finally firing his weapon four times. We actually talked with a man who lives in the neighborhood who said he heard those shots when they happened.
"I was walking towards the hallway and then I heard the shots, and I was like wow, four slugs, golly man," said Francisco Vasquez.
We showed Vasquez the video, including a part we didn’t air on the news where a police dog attacked Bessannia while he lay on the ground. The State’s Attorney ruled that use of force was legal and justified, and after watching the video, Vasquez agreed.
"If he would have done what the deputies told him to do, he still would be alive today, instead of in a coffin," said Vasquez.
But other members of the community, including Bessannia’s family and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, disagree.
The Coalition released a statement after the video was released, saying in part "The videos confirm that Nicolas’s death was preventable at multiple points. The officers failed to use any reasonable efforts to de-escalate the situation… There is no denying that the killing of Nicolas Morales was entirely avoidable. There was no need to leave a boy orphaned, to leave a family in mourning, or to leave the community's trust in pieces. We strongly disagree with the State Attorney’s office, which inexplicably concluded that deadly force was justified. That conclusion is shocking and unacceptable, and we will seek justice for Nicolas, for his family, and for Immokalee.”
We have reached out both to Bessannia’s family and to the family’s attorney, Brent Probinsky, but so far we have not heard back.