Florida man 'detains' Black teen on his way to basketball practice, falsely accuses him of breaking into cars
54-year-old Luis Santos Santiago had even called the police on the 18-year-old boy and accused him of breaking into cars in what appears to be a case of racial profiling
SEFFNER, FLORIDA: A former Florida theme park security guard has been accused of falsely detaining a Black teenager who was on his way to an early morning basketball practice. The man, 54-year-old Luis Santos Santiago, had even called the police on the 18-year-old boy and had accused him of breaking into cars in what appears to be a case of racial profiling. In fact, it was Santiago who was later arrested and booked into the Hillsborough County Jail on a charge of false imprisonment.
The incident had occurred during the early hours of June 8 when Santiago drove his car alongside the teenager in Seffner. According to the Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office, a video released on Wednesday, July 29, shows Santiago following the teen in his car, before dawn. Check the video out below.
Santiago, who is Hispanic, keeps questioning the boy and does not allow him to leave. Santiago can be heard asking the boy as he drives alongside him, "You live here?" to which the teenager responds saying "yes". Santiago asks, "where?" to which the teenager says, "I live right there." Santiago continues to push the boy to give him his exact address which he does. While exiting his vehicle, Santiago says, "You're not going anywhere. You're being detained."
Prosecutors say that the man put his hands over his right pocket to make it seem like he had a gun while ordering the teenager to keep his hands up. A few minutes later, Santiago dials 911 and falsely tells dispatchers that he is an off-duty cop. He can be heard saying, "Good morning, I have somebody breaking into cars. Um, we got it on video. And I got it right here in front of me." The dispatcher then asks about the race of the suspect to which Santiago says, "He's a black guy."
While the teenager says something inaudible the background, Santiago snaps, "You stay right where you at, I'm telling you this... cause you can't be breaking into people's place. We got you on video so relax." He accuses the teenager of stealing the bicycle that he had been riding. "I got him with his hands up. I'm an off-duty officer," Santiago tells the dispatcher.
When authorities arrived on the scene, they found no stolen property on the teen and confirmed that the teen had not committed any crimes. The only things the child had was his backpack which had a basketball, a jump rope, and a pair of gym shoes. The State Attorney's Office released a statement where they revealed how shaken up the teenager was and was visibly shaking and hyperventilating.
"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," the statement read. One of the responding deputies who wanted to put the boy at ease and make sure he did not get late for practice, gave him a ride to the gym.
State Attorney Andrew Warren said, "What happened that morning should upset everyone in our community. We have skilled police officers—we don’t need vigilantes confronting people on the street." "The fact that this didn’t end with a loss of life doesn’t make it any less of a crime. What Mr Santos did is unacceptable and illegal — now he’ll face consequences for his actions," Warren said.
Santiago was released hours after being booked into jail on a $2,500 bond. Should he be convicted as charged, he faces upto five years in prison.