ORLANDO, Fla. – The split-second decision by Orlando police officers to open fire at the speeding driver of a late-model van in the parking lot of Colonial Plaza Monday afternoon was justified, former Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary said.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina said the officers were in the area of Colonial Plaza Shopping Center near Bumby Avenue and Colonial Drive on Monday when they were flagged down by a loss prevention officer at Marshall's, who notified them of a crime in progress.
Mina said the suspects were trying to get away when the officers fired at the vehicle. The driver was struck by police gunfire and continued to drive away, leaving the shopping center, and was found dead near Langford Park soon after the shooting.
“People need to realize a 6,000-pound vehicle is a weapon,” Beary said. “You had two officers who were in immediate danger.”
Beary, a News 6 criminal consultant, reviewed the cellphone video captured of the shooting at the Orlando shopping center. Video obtained from a News 6 viewer, shows two Orlando police officers flanked on the driver and passenger side of a gray van.
In the video, when the suspect, 32-year-old Juan Alberto Silva, who is seated behind the wheel, hits the gas pedal and speeds off, both officers opened fire.
Silva was the getaway driver teamed with two women -- Jocelyn Villot, 32, and Brittany Chandler, 26-- who were spotted stealing baby clothes from Marshalls store in Colonial Plaza, according to police.
While replaying the video, Beary spotted a third officer, who he said could have possibly been a female supervisor, running away from the path of the speeding van.
“I think this plays in favor of the officer on the passenger side," Beary said. "Because he is protecting
the third officer as well."
A spokesperson for the Orlando Police Department could not confirm whether a third officer was in front of the van.
The officer on the driver's side appeared to be negotiating with the suspect behind the wheel, which Beary says shows he was trying to deescalate the situation.
In the span of one second, the video shows the driver hit the gas pedal and the officer open fire. The Orlando police officer on the passenger side fired additional shots as the van raced through the parking lot not far from the Florida Mall.
Both officers, identified as Master Police Officer Anthony Wongshue and Officer Juan Abreu, are on paid leave.
Wonghsue has been with the department since 2002 and is currently assigned to the North Patrol Division. Abreu has been with the department since 2017 and is currently assigned to the Field Training Unit.