Collier County Community Demanding Answers
(FL) – Immokalee is a small community that has a significant number of farmworkers. On September 17, in the Farm Worker Village housing development, a woman called 911 saying a man was trying to get into her house. She indicated that the man would rattle the doorknob, bang on the door, and call out to be let in. The dispatcher kept the woman on the line while deputies were on the way giving us the only recorded information of what happened that night.
Deputies with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office arrive and within 13 seconds of that arrival, Cpl. Pierre Richard Jean fired four shots, killing Nicholas Morales-Bessannia. From that moment on it appears that the Sheriff’s Office has been selectively releasing evidence that can be perceived as beneficial for them and hiding other evidence from the public.
Conflicting Statements Gives Impression of a Cover-Up
The Collier County Sheriff’s Office released three statements. Those statements seem to contradict each other. The very first statement should have shown why officers feared for their life to the point of needing to shoot someone. That statement says Morales advanced toward the officers and had a shovel. Note that they don’t say he was holding the shovel in a threatening manner, just that he had one. They also say he advanced toward them which is a much milder description than what they changed it to in their third statement. An updated statement, statement number two, came about six hours later and says Morales had a sharp-edged weapon. Then 5 days later they release a statement saying Morales had landscaping shears and that he dropped the shovel and charged the officers, raising the shears. If that’s what made Cpl. Jean afraid for his life, why wasn’t it in the first statement? It seems unlikely that would be something any of the officers would forget. The whole thing has the feel of the Sheriff’s Office building a story to fit the known facts rather than stating what happened.
Collier County deputies do not wear body cams but they do have cameras in their vehicles. The Sheriff’s Office has released the 911 call recording but refuses to release the video from the vehicles. I would like you to notice that the woman who made the 911 call does say on the recording that he’s walking toward the police. Within seconds of her saying that, you hear the gunshots.
Did Officers Use Excessive Force?
Officers did use deadly force but were they justified in their actions or was this a case of excessive force? Could they have resorted to other options rather than killing Morales? Why did they resort to shooting him within 13 seconds of arriving? Those are the questions the community is asking. The first thing that came to my mind when I was reading articles on this was, was he drunk? Morales only lived three houses away. Was he at the wrong house, thinking it was his? Even the woman who called 911 asks someone else in the house with her if he’s drunk. It also bears noting that you can’t hear him yelling or even pounding on the door. You would think if it was someone aggressively trying to break in, he would be loud about it. That he was making those demands but soft enough not to be picked up by the phone is another thing that makes me think he was drunk and at the wrong house, not understanding why his son wouldn’t open the door. You do hear the gunshots when the officers fire so you should have heard Morales if he had been yelling while trying to break in.
It’s been over two months and there are still more questions than there are answers.