ST. CLOUD, Fla. – The Brevard County sheriff’s deputy who was cleared by prosecutors of criminal wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of two Cocoa teens was found dead Sunday in his Osceola County home, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.
Deputy Jafet Santiago-Miranda’s body was discovered by his sister unresponsive in the bathtub about 10:48 a.m. Sunday at his residence on Orange Avenue, according to the St. Cloud Police Department’s incident report.
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An unidentified person in the home called police. Paramedics arrived and attempted to resuscitate Santiago-Mirando, who was not breathing.
There were no immediate signs of trauma or weapons involved, officers wrote in the incident report.
Investigators said Santiago-Miranda may have collapsed while taking a shower.
“It’s still an active and open investigation. The cause of death has not yet been determined,” said Sgt. Wayne Souza, of the St. Cloud Police Department.
The 35-year-old’s body was transported to the medical examiner’s office, where an autopsy was conducted.
Preliminary findings on Santiago-Miranda’s death were not released. The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for a statement on the officer’s passing.
Santiago-Miranda worked for the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office and is the deputy seen on a dashcam firing into a turning car in a quiet Cocoa neighborhood on Nov. 13, 2020, in what investigators later said was the mistaken belief the vehicle was stolen.
Two teens — A.J. Crooms, 16, and Sincere Pierce, 18 — died in the volley of bullets unleashed on the vehicle by Santiago. The shooting prompted protests as the parents of the teens hired high-profile attorney Benjamin Crump to sue the Sheriff’s Office and Santiago-Miranda.
The Sheriff’s Office has not responded to multiple inquiries about whether Santiago returned to work after being cleared of wrongdoing in the incident.
Natalie Jackson, an attorney for Cynthia Green, the adoptive mother of Pierce, and the lawyers working with Crump, a Tallahassee-based attorney, had no comment on the death. Green, however, said Santiago-Miranda’s death will not stop her from pursuing justice in the case.
My thoughts are that my son is dead. His friend is dead and the man who killed them is gone,” Green said. “But I’m still going to pursue justice in the case. Someone needs to be held accountable. Those kids did not deserve to die.”
Attorneys filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida in Orlando, that said Santiago-Miranda “was unfit to serve as a sheriff’s deputy and carry a weapon in that capacity” because of domestic incidents he was involved in. The case is expected to go to trial in 2022.
Those incidents, involving his wife and threats against a Titusville police officer, were reviewed internally by the Sheriff’s Office. No charges were filed.
A toxicology report on Santiago-Miranda’s death could be concluded in six weeks.