’Why was the first thing to shoot?’ Community mourns Cocoa teens killed in deputy-involved shooting

Vigil held for AJ Crooms, 16, and Sincere Pierce, 18

COCOA, Fla. – The families of two Cocoa teenagers are grieving and demanding answers after both died last week in a deputy-involved shooting in Cocoa.

According to Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey, two deputies were attempting to conduct a traffic stop on Friday of what they believed to be a stolen car. After Angelo “AJ” Crooms, 16, attempted to continue to drive, Deputy Jafet Santiago-Miranda opened fire, in fear he was going to be struck by the vehicle, according to the sheriff. The other deputy on scene did not fire their weapon.

Crooms and Sincere Pierce, 18, were both killed in the shooting. A third occupant inside the vehicle survived.

Dash camera video released by the sheriff shows the two deputies attempting to stop the vehicle and yelling “stop” seven or more times before the shooting.

Despite the release of the deputy’s names and some video, the community held a rally and vigil for the teens in Cocoa on Wednesday, demanding more transparency from the sheriff. Dozens attended, carrying signs and remembering the two young men killed.

Family and community members came out Nov. 18, 2020 in Cocoa to hold a vigil for two teens killed in a deputy-involved shooting. (Image: Jerry Askin/WKMG) (WKMG 2020)

Family of both teens have hired notable civil rights attorney Ben Crump to represent them.

In a statement after some of the dash camera video was released Crump said he is asking for the sheriff’s office to release all footage of the incident.

“It is painfully troubling to us that this teen driver and the teen backseat passenger were terrified and drove around deputies who approached the vehicle with guns drawn. Believe your own eyes,” Crump said in a statement. “The video shows the deputy was still shooting as the car cleared him and posed no threat.”

In addition to demanding the sheriff’s office release all recordings, the attorney is asking for witnesses to come forward with any video.

“We demand that BCSO release all footage in the case, including the dashcam footage from the other vehicle, and any neighborhood surveillance videos,” Crump said. “We urge anyone with additional video evidence, including neighbors with home surveillance cams, to come forward so that we can have a clearer picture of the facts in this case.”

At the vigil both teens’ families were present and still in shock over the events leading to the shooting.

“I was angry about it, I was angry because I miss him,” Crooms’ mother Tasha Strachan said. “I want answers to why that was done, it didn’t have to be done like that.”

The teens’ cousin Charity Baxter has been thinking about how Crooms felt in those final moments.

“He saw two cops, two sheriffs’ guns pointed at him. I can only feel the fear he probably felt,” Baxter said.

Baxter wants to know why deadly force was necessary in this situation.

“When you did approach him, why was the first thing to shoot?” Baxter said.

Pierce’s family said they are asking for justice.

“I’m looking for a little closure,” Pierce’s mother Qausheda Pierce said. “We want some answers.”

Both deputies are on paid administrative leave. The Sheriff’s Office is still investigating whether the vehicle the teens were in was the suspected stolen vehicle.

Family and community members came out Nov. 18, 2020 in Cocoa to hold a vigil for two teens killed in a deputy-involved shooting. (Image: Jerry Askin/WKMG) (WKMG 2020)

About the Authors:

Jerry Askin is an Atlanta native who came to News 6 in March 2018 with an extensive background in breaking news.