Family of Cocoa teens shot, killed by Brevard deputy in mistaken traffic stop to hold memorial

Sincere Piece, A.J. Crooms shot on Nov. 13, 2020

Anthony "AJ" Crooms, 16, left, and Sincere Pierce,18, right. Both teens were shot and killed on Nov. 13 in Cocoa during a Brevard County deputy-involved shooting. (Photos courtesy of Nino Lyons) (WKMG 2020)

COCOA, Fla. – A year after Brevard County sheriff’s deputies carried out a mistaken traffic stop that left two Cocoa teens dead, family members will memorialize the pair and call for justice, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.

“We don’t want them, the sheriff, the world, to forget about what happened. We’re still fighting for justice and we won’t let them forget about them,” said Quasheda Pierce, the mother of 18-year-old Sincere Pierce, who, along with A.J. Crooms, 16, was shot to death Nov. 13, 2020 by a Brevard County sheriff’s deputy. Deputies thought they had located a stolen vehicle from earlier in the day.

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Friends, family and supporters are expected to mark the one-year anniversary of the shooting at 3 p.m. Saturday at Anderson Park, 501 Fiske Blvd, Cocoa. There will be a cookout and a balloon release held to honor the teens.

“It’s been a year since their death and we’re still fighting for justice. But it’s been hell. Somedays I don’t know if I’m coming or going. It’s never going to be over until we get justice. We don’t want this to happen to anybody else’s child,” Pierce said.

Investigators said Pierce was a backseat passenger in a car driven by A.J. when two Brevard County deputies followed them through a Cocoa neighborhood on Nov. 13, 2020. Deputies had mistaken the vehicle for a stolen car, despite differing tags, reports show.

The two died in the volley of bullets unleashed on the vehicle by Deputy Jafet Santiago-Miranda. The deputy told investigators he was in fear for his life.

The shootings were investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which released its findings to 18th Judicial Circuit State Attorney Phil Archer in February. Archer determined the deputy’s use of force was justified and he was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.

Last month, Santiago-Miranda was found dead in his Osceola home. According to the incident report from the St. Cloud Police Department, his body was discovered by his sister on a Sunday morning in the bathtub at his home around 10:48 a.m. Investigators said the deputy may have collapsed while taking a shower. There were no immediate signs of trauma or weapons involved, officers wrote in the incident report.

Medical examiners are awaiting toxicology results before issuing a final finding in the deputy’s cause of death.

Pierce said the deputy’s death will not stop her lawsuit from moving forward.

“It’s not just about the deputy, yes, that was a part of it. But we are looking at the whole system. We still have a case and will be pursuing justice,” she said.

The third person in the car, 20-year-old Jaquan Kimbrough-Rucker, who said there was loud music booming in the car as Santiago-Miranda shouted commands to stop the car, has been arrested multiple times since that fateful day.

Records show that after speaking publicly about the shooting, he was arrested on drug charges by the Sheriff’s Office’s Gangs and Major Epidemic of Violence Enforcement Response task force. Several of the drug cases are still pending.

Since the shooting, there have been protests as the parents of the teens — Pierce, Tasha Strachan, who is A.J.’s mother, and Cynthia Greene, aunt and adoptive mother of Sincere — sought legal remedies.

Pierce and Strachan hired high-profile attorney Benjamin Crump to sue the Sheriff’s Office and Santiago-Miranda. The federal cases are still pending.