Salaythis Melvin’s family asked for patience as state attorney conducts new inquiry into deadly deputy shooting

Deputy James Montiel is back on full duty

The family of Salaythis Melvin, along with their attorneys, met with Orange, Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell Tuesday as they await her decision on whether to charge Orange County Deputy James Montiel for the 22-year-old’s death.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The family of Salaythis Melvin, along with their attorneys, met with Orange, Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell Tuesday as they await her decision on whether to charge Orange County Deputy James Montiel for the 22-year-old’s death.

According to attorney Carlus Haynes, who is representing Melvin’s family, the state attorney’s office initiated a meeting.

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“We’ll say that Miss Worrell decided that instead of just accepting what has been given to her, that they will start the investigation over from the beginning, and their position is they don’t want to leave any stone unturned,” Haynes said following the meeting. “They’re not just accepting FLDE’s investigation as the gospel. You know, they’re going back they’re interviewing independent witnesses. They are going through the evidence. They asked us, us and our families, to give them some time.”

The meeting was not what Haynes and Melvin’s family were hoping to hear.

“We’re hoping that (Tuesday) actually is going to be a celebration,” Haynes told News 6 on Monday.

Despite that, Haynes said they were willing to give the state attorney’s office more time.

“Yes, we pressed them for a timeline and to her credit, again, she (Worrell) said that, you know, justice isn’t swift —sometimes it is slow — and that she didn’t want to pigeonhole herself to a particular time — two months, three months — but that it is now their top priority. So they’re going to continue their investigation. We’re going to give them an opportunity to do that.”

The State Attorney’s Office issued a news release Tuesday after meeting with the family outlining what has been happening since Worrell took office in January.

“It is important to understand that while this case has been investigated by other agencies for eight months, this investigation has only been investigated by the Office of the State Attorney since January 5, 2021, when State Attorney Worrell took office,” the statement read.

Prosecutors will use FDLE findings, in addition to any newly discovered evidence, the Office said. Prosecutors are asking any witnesses with information on the case to contact the Office of the State Attorney.

Though the family and their attorneys plan to give the state attorney some patience to conduct her investigation, they do not intend to wait idly.

“Our next step is we’re going to proceed forward with filing a civil suit. And that’ll give us more of an opportunity to do our own investigation, and be able to subpoena records and do what we need to do, and hopefully, that’ll also help in assisting the state attorney with their case as well,” Attorney Brad Laurent said.

Montiel shot and killed Melvin in August 2020. Video from a body camera shows Melvin running in the parking lot before falling to the ground after Montiel fired his gun.

The sheriff’s office confirmed Montiel fired the fatal shot. According to the incident report, Montiel saw Melvin grabbing a gun in his waistband and feared Melvin would pull the gun and open fire.

The deputy-involved shooting spurred weeks of protests as community members demanded to see body camera video and for Montiel to be fired.

[RELATED: Body camera video shows deputy shooting man in back at Florida Mall]

Last week the sheriff’s office confirmed Montiel is back on full duty and working in an investigative capacity in the office’s criminal investigations division.

It’s standard protocol for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate deputy-involved shootings.

The FDLE conducted an independent investigation of Melvin’s death and turned over its findings to the State Attorney’s Office in November of last year.

[RELATED: FDLE turns over investigation of Salaythis Melvin shooting to prosecutors]

As recently as Friday, prosecutors with the Orange-Osceola State Attorney’s Office said they are still reviewing the FDLE’s findings to determine if charges will be filed against Montiel.

Haynes said it’s been a difficult process for the family compounded with the months-long wait for the outcome of the state attorney’s findings.

He said Monday he is cautiously optimistic about the findings.

“I have not found a case in Florida similar to this where a state attorney has had the (courage) to charge an officer,” Haynes said.

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He said the shooting happened amid heightened tensions across the country over police brutality which ignited a push for change among some county leaders.

“When there were protests about things that were happening outside of Florida, many of our to-be elected officials were present at some of these protests, gave speeches at some of these protests,” Haynes said. “Now it’s in your backyard, we are asking you to put your money where your mouth was.”

Worrell took office in January and Haynes said he hopes she will deliver a fair and just outcome.

“I’m so tired of people calling this a racial divide, this is a right or wrong divide,” he said.


About the Authors:

Thomas Mates is a digital storyteller for News 6 and ClickOrlando.com. He also produces the podcast Florida Foodie. Thomas is originally from Northeastern Pennsylvania and worked in Portland, Oregon before moving to Central Florida in August 2018. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in Journalism in 2010.