The parents of a teenage boy shot by a Miami-Dade Police officer nearly two years ago say they still don’t know why their son was shot and they want answers.
Officer Luis Manuel Perez, Jr is accused of pumping nine bullets into the back of then 16-year old Sebastian Gregory.
Gregory was walking down a Kendall street at 3 a.m. on May 28 of Memorial Day weekend 2012. He says he had an aluminum baseball bat hidden in his clothes for protection from bullies.
According to his account, a police car pulled up behind him and an officer ordered him to the ground. Gregory says he reached to adjust the bat so that he could accommodate the officer’s command. Medical reports show he was shot in the back 9 times.
“I was screaming, “ Gregory said, unsure whether he had been stunned by a Taser or shot. “It’s when I pushed up,” he told Team 6 Investigators, “That I saw the blood gushing everywhere. There was a cop that kept telling me to show my hands even when I was on the ground shot.”
Upon the advice of his attorney, Officer Perez has not given a statement.
Gregory was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital. After surgery, doctors were not sure if he would ever walk again. Gregory did not give up and endured months of painful physical therapy.
Today, one leg is still paralyzed, but he is able to walk with the aid of a walker. He says among the things he misses most are sexual feeling, playing sports and walking his dog to the park.
Gregory’s mom, Amalia Gregory, says her son is depressed and often cannot get out of bed.
“For me,” she says, “the most important thing is that he will be fine an smile again … and find peace.”
Gregory’s dad, Andres Gregory, told NBC 6 that at first he was angry. “Now that some time has passed,” he says, “ I am waiting for justice.”
The Gregorys have filed a civil suit against Officer Perez and Miami-Dade County, alleging that Officer Perez used “deadly force” that was “excessive.” The family’s attorney is Richard Della Fera.
“I understand police officers have the right to defend themselves if they reasonably believe they are in danger,” he said. “ When one shot is enough to allay any fear or danger, why 7 or 8 more?”
The case is being held up because Miami-Dade Police say they have not completed their investigation and cannot turn over key documents until it is closed. The state attorney is supposed to do its own investigation to determine if Officer Perez should be charged with a crime. It’s investigation, too, is stymied pending the release of those documents, according to a spokesperson for the office.
Nova Southeastern Law Professor, Bruce Rogow, says the state attorney could and should proceed without the police department’s documents. “Either the prosecutor says ‘I’m stonewalled’ or ‘I’m going to move ahead.” Rogow says the prosecutors can present the evidence – such as Gregory’s testimony and the physical evidence like medical and ballistic reports –to a grand jury and let the jurors decide if there is enough evident to charge Officer Perez with a crime.
We wanted to talk to Miami-Dade Police Department Director, JD Patterson, about why these kinds of cases take so long to investigate and to Miami Dade State Attorney, Katherine Fernandez Rundle, about why her office has not convened a grand jury, but neither granted our request for an on camera interview.
As for Officer Perez, the Team 6 investigators found him driving a patrol car, back on the street, with a badge and carrying his gun.
Gregroy says he’s haunted by a question he’d like to ask the officer.
“If he feels bad about what he did to me,” Gregory said.
“He shot a kid,” his dad added. “My son was 16 years old, and he’s in the street like nothing happened.”
“I’m afraid for the other kids on the street and what could happen to them.”
By phone, Miami-Dade Police told us that when an officer is involved in a shooting, the officer can be put on administrative leave for 3 days and must have a psychological evaluation, but that no counseling or additional training is mandatory.
There is no deadline for when the Department must conclude its investigation. This is one of 38 open police-involved shooting investigations the department has. Some have been ongoing since 2006.