It seems as if every day that we find ourselves still stuck inside the Trump era we witness some new heinous racist video explode across the internet. Oftentimes they depict police officers engaged in racial profiling or extreme brutality against minorities, but sometimes they show just a garden variety citizen taking it upon themselves to terrorize a person of color. Today we are confronted with the latter kind of bigotry.
News Channel 8 reports that a 54-year-old man named Luis Santos from Seffner, Florida was charged this month for illegally detaining a Black teenager who was simply trying to make his way to basketball practice. Officially, Santos is being charged with carrying out False Imprisonment.
The Office of Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren claims that the teenager was riding a bicycle on his way to practice when Santos accosted him and stopped him from proceeding on his way.
Footage of the incident filmed by Santos reveals that he told the boy that he wasn’t “going anywhere” and hit him with a series of probing, loaded questions that he had no right to ask. The fact that he decided to record the encounter himself shows how entitled he felt to harass the teenager for seemingly no other reason than that he is Black.
“You’re being detained,” Santos can be heard saying in the clip. Understandably confused, the teen says, “I’m sorry?” at which point the man proceeds to call 911 and lie, saying he captured someone who was breaking into cars and that he has video evidence. When asked by the police dispatcher for the boy’s race, Santos readily replies that “he’s a Black guy.” He also accuses the teen of stealing bicycles and later claims to the dispatcher that he himself is an off-duty cop.
The boy was never charged with a crime and a police officer ultimately escorted him to practice.
“The evidence shows the victim had not committed any crime and Santos made misleading statements to law enforcement about what he had witnessed. The young man felt threatened and was not free to leave, while Santos acted as though he had the legal authority of a law enforcement officer, including compelling the victim to put his hands in the air until sheriff’s deputies arrived,” Warren’s office explained in an email to News Channel 8.
Prosecutors further claim that Santos hovered his hand around his pocket, perhaps trying to trick the teenager into believing he had a gun in order to compel compliance for his illegal orders.
“The victim was visibly shaken and hyperventilating when deputies arrived, with his hands still over his head. He reasonably believed his life may be in jeopardy if he tried to leave or even move. Santos had no lawful authority to restrain a person in a public place and his own recorded words establish that he was restraining the victim, by threat, against his will,” stated Warren’s office.
Simply put there is no reasonable explanation for Santos’s behavior other than that he was racial profiling the teenager and his own ingrained anti-Black prejudices caused him to infringe on the rights of an innocent boy. It’s reassuring to learn that Santos will be held accountable for his crime because it shows that sometimes this country’s justice system gets it right.
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