Florida Grand Jury Clears Deputies in Controversial Shooting at Kissimmee Target, Sheriff Emphasizes Need for Swifter Investigations

KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Two deputies from the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office were cleared of charges in a shooting incident that resulted in the death of a 20-year-old and injuries to three others. The controversial shooting took place outside a Target store in Kissimmee on April 27, 2022. Following a grand jury’s decision not to press charges, Sheriff Marcos Lopez expressed gratitude to the jury and extended his condolences to the affected parties during a press conference held on Wednesday.

During the press conference, Sheriff Lopez emphasized the tragic nature of situations that require law enforcement officers to use deadly force. He expressed his hope that the grand jury’s decision would provide closure for those involved and aid in the healing process. The sheriff also acknowledged the extended 20-month period it took for the deputies to be cleared, highlighting the need for more efficient investigations in cases of officer-involved shootings. He mentioned forthcoming policy changes within the Sheriff’s Office, including the reassessment of inherited tactics like ‘boxing’.

Extending his support to the deputies involved, Sheriff Lopez asserted that an officer using deadly force appropriately should not be treated as a criminal. He challenged the perception that the deputies responded with excessive force to a minor theft, stating that their lives were endangered by the driver of the vehicle involved. According to the sheriff, the driver made a dangerous decision by ignoring lawful commands and using their vehicle as a weapon against the deputies.

The case had remained unresolved for over 11 months under the previous State Attorney Monique Worrell. However, the newly appointed Attorney Andrew Bain, chosen by Governor Ron DeSantis, confirmed that a Florida Grand Jury had concluded there would be no charges brought against the deputies. This marked the first application of the state attorney’s revised policy, which delegates decision-making on charges related to deadly force incidents to a grand jury.

While Sheriff Lopez welcomed the grand jury’s decision, Attorney Mark NeJame expressed skepticism about the outcome. The grand jury is expected to provide recommendations on how to handle similar situations in the future. Sheriff Lopez, on the other hand, expressed his openness to implementing reforms within the Sheriff’s Office in response to the fatal shooting incident. He mentioned that changes, such as acquiring more body cameras and adopting distinct approaches for handling misdemeanor and felony cases, have already been put into effect.

In summary, two deputies from the Osceola County Sheriff’s Office have been cleared of charges in a shooting incident that occurred outside a Kissimmee Target store. The Florida Grand Jury determined that no charges would be brought against the deputies involved, much to the gratitude of Sheriff Marcos Lopez. While the decision has received support from the Sheriff’s Office, some skepticism remains, and the grand jury is expected to provide recommendations for future cases. Sheriff Lopez has expressed his openness to implementing reforms and has already made changes within the Sheriff’s Office.