On May 7, 2018, Orlando police officers Anthony Wongshue and Juan Abreu were caught on cellphone video shooting multiple shots into a parked car with suspected shoplifters inside, killing its driver, Juan Silva.
The shooting marked the first time an Orlando cop violated a 2016 departmental forbidding the act of shooting into vehicles, which was implemented after one out of every three police shootings going back seven years involved a cop shooting into a car.
A moving vehicle alone does not constitute a threat that justifies a member’s use of deadly or potentially deadly force, particularly if the sole objective of the driver is to evade capture. Members are prohibited from discharging their firearms at a moving vehicle unless a person in the vehicle is immediately threatening the officer or another person with deadly force by means other than the vehicle.
Police initially tried to pin Silva's murder on his two female accomplices under the state's felony murder law.
However, a judge ruled Thursday that there is not enough evidence to charge the women with felony murder, so now they are only facing grand theft and resisting an officer without violence charges.
The incident took place after a loss prevention officer from Marshall's contacted police about the two woman, Jocelyn M. Villot and Brittany L. Chandler, shoplifting more than $700 in merchandise.
The woman were sitting in the car with Silva in the driver's seat when the two Orlando cops stood on both sides of the car. A fourth person was also in the car, but managed to get away somehow.
The video shows the cops were not in front of the van when it lurched forward.
But they claimed in their reports that Silva “accelerated towards the patrol officer on the driver’s side," making him fear for his life.
The shooting would have been captured on Wongshue's's body camera but its battery had died. And Abreu was not wearing one.
“We believe the use of body cameras will strengthen community trust, improve accountability and transparency, protect our officers from false complaints and provide valuable evidence for prosecutors,” OPD Chief John Mina said last year. There is only one issue, there is no bodycam footage. Chief Mina stated the reason there is no bodycam video is that one of the officer’s camera ran out of battery before his interaction with the driver and that the other officer was new and not issued one yet.
This is not the first time the Orlando Police Department has had issues with excessive force claims that were not captured on bodycam video.
In 2010, Orlando cops opened fire on Rogelio Cortes who was suspected of credit card fraud. The cops claimed the suspect was repeatedly ramming the officer’s car. And as usual, there was no bodycam footage.
But there was parking-lot surveillance video that shows the officer was the one who was ramming his patrol car into Cortes' car. The suspect survived the shooting and settle his case for $750,000.
Silva was a single father of six that worked as a home construction worker. According to his sister Sandra, he liked helping people and building garages and porches and he was a good person.
Wongshue has been with the department since 2002 and shot a man named Craig Lawrence Leblanc Jr. in 2011, who was suspected of shooting another person inside a nightclub.
Abreu has been with the department since November 2017 and was assigned to the field training unit where he was paired with Wongshue for 14 weeks of training. Both officers are on paid leave.
The current bodycams come with batteries that only last four to six hours. The new bodycams are said to double the duration of battery life.
However, police shifts are 12 hours, so it still will not be enough battery power to last the duration of the shift.