COCOA, Fla. – A Cocoa police officer who shot a man after mistaking his cellphone for a gun has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting, recently released documents show.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement reviewed the Dec. 11 officer-involved shooting, which is standard procedure, and found that Officer Xzevies Baez shot through his windshield at a man who called 911 to report that one of his female friends was possibly being followed by her ex-husband who has a history of domestic violence.
The investigation found that Keith Transue Seal called 911 around 4:30 a.m. to report a possible kidnapping attempt and as Baez was driving down Forrest Avenue on the way to respond to the call, he saw Seal walking toward him in a "purposeful, fast and aggressive manner" with something black in his hand, which was later determined to be a cellphone.
Baez told investigators he thought Seal was going to kill him, so he fired several rounds at Seal as he approached, hitting him in the elbow.
Watch Baez's body camera video below. Warning: Video contains graphic content, discretion is advised.
"My cellphone is what got me," Seal told investigators. “If I would have known it was an officer, I would have never run at him."
In a later interview, Seal said he was upset with Baez and the police department because the dispatcher told him to approach the vehicle and Baez fired while still in the patrol car without giving Seal any commands to stop or put his hands up.
FDLE's findings were taken to the State Attorney's Office, which determined on Friday that Baez's use of force was lawful.
“We have received the investigative findings from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement regarding the Dec. 11, 2018 shooting of Keith Seal by Officer Xzevies Baez," Cocoa Police Chief Mike Cantaloupe said. "The investigation and subsequent review by the State Attorney’s Office found the incident to be a lawful use of force."
The chief said Baez is currently assigned to administrative duties pending the outcome of an internal review.