KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Attorneys Mark NeJame and Albert Yonfa are accusing Sheriff Marcos Lopez of distorting the facts in the deadly shooting at an Osceola County Target.
Following Lopez’s news briefing Monday afternoon, NeJame and Yonfa — who are representing the three others who were in the car during the shooting, as well as the family of the 20-year-old who was killed — held their own news conference to rebut the sheriff’s account of what transpired in the parking lot on April 27.
The lawyers said the Osceola detectives actually caused the damage to their own cruisers when they attempted to box in the black Audi that the four young men — Jayden Baez, 20, Michael Gomez, 18, Edwin Lowe, 19, and an unidentified 17-year-old — were in.
“They also claimed that our clients hit their vehicle,” NeJame said. “Nonsense. Watch the video. We’re breaking it down for you. We’ll take you through it. The other (sheriff’s) vehicles created all the damage.”
Watch the sheriff’s news conference in the media player below:
NeJame pointed out that the unmarked pickup truck involved in the attempted takedown made contact with the black Audi first, prior to the car attempting to pull away from the deputies.
“That’s why there was damage to their vehicle because they hit him,” NeJame said.
The attorney said officers failed to properly perform a box-in maneuver, allowing the Audi to move through a gap between the sheriff’s vehicles.
“The (sheriff’s deputies) failed to perform a box-in maneuver, the (Audi) was able to exit that way and then a black Pathfinder — unmarked, no lights — came and T-boned the (Audi),” Yonfa said.
Additionally, NeJame argued the four men didn’t see any identifying features that would reveal the cars boxing them in were driven by law enforcement officials.
“Why wouldn’t they try to get out of there?” he said.
Following that collision, two deputies opened fire killing Baez, who was driving, and injuring both Gomez and Lowe after the latter two were reported by a Target employee for shoplifting, records indicated.
On Monday, Lopez discussed the alleged criminal actions of Baez, Lowe and Gomez during his briefing, as well as the actions of deputies leading up to the shooting. The sheriff claimed the unmarked vehicles attempted to box in the Audi with their emergency lights activated. He also said that the deputies stepped out of their vehicle and identified themselves prior to the Audi making contact with the unmarked vehicles.
NeJame said that is not true.
“Do you see any lights on it?” NeJame said. “Do you see any police lights on? Do you see any marked vehicles? Do you see anybody in tactical outfits, tactical gear? Identifying themselves emblazoned as they would have you all believe.”
The attorneys also attempted to discredit the reports released by the sheriff’s office. NeJame pointed out that all of the deputies’ reports appeared to have been filed 11 days after the shooting on May 6.
“Take a look at when these reports were filed. There are four of them by four deputies,” he said. “All filed on remarkably May 6 (at 3 p.m.). All of these were filed on the same day at the same time? Where are the original reports? These are 11 days old that they gave you (Monday).”
News 6 has reached out to the sheriff’s office for an explanation as to why all the reports were filed in this way. This story will be updated if we receive a response.
NeJame also sought to discredit Lopez’s report that a gun was found after the deputy shooting.
“Not one report, not one statement indicates that anybody ever saw a gun. Nobody brandished a gun. Nobody showed a gun. It happened to be in the car (and) is completely irrelevant — meant to deceive the public,” he said.
NeJame also pointed to inconsistencies in the reports as to where the gun was located.
“We’ve heard three stories. We heard (the gun) was under a seat. We’ve heard it was on a lap. We heard it fell out in the car. It has nothing to do with (the shooting). Don’t buy into that nonsense. It’s like saying there was a pastrami sandwich in the car. What did it have to do with anything other than to mislead you?” he said.
In a response to Lopez’s briefing, Yonfa criticized deputies’ lack of bodycam equipment during the incident.
“The Deputies knew they were going to be involved in a criminal investigation, and accordingly should have put on their body cameras as they had time to enter their vehicles, call fellow deputies, and coordinate their activities,” Yonfa wrote in a statement following Lopez’s briefing Monday. “They had time to put on their (vests), according to the Sherriff (sic). Why did they not take the extra seconds to strap on their body cams?”
The sheriff made himself available to the media Tuesday, to discuss the details of another case. During that briefing, News 6 asked when Lopez would be releasing his office’s body camera policy. Lopez was also asked whether the policy under previous sheriffs’ administrations called for tactical deputies to wear body cameras and if so, has the policy been changed.
“Let’s not be insensitive. If you would have been here yesterday you would have heard all of these answers and we’re not going to be reiterating this,” Lopez replied.