What to Know
- Sebastian Gregory, 16, was shot in 2012 by a Miami-Dade police officer who mistakenly thought he was reaching for a gun.
- Gregory, who suffered chronic pain, partial paralysis and loss of some bodily functions from his injuries, committed suicide in January 2016
- On Wednesday a jury found Sgt. Luis Perez did not act improperly and did not violate Gregory's civil rights.
A federal jury Wednesday found a Miami-Dade police officer did not violate a 16-year-old boy's civil rights in May 2012 when he shot him six times, mistakenly believing an aluminum bat the boy was carrying was a gun.
Sgt. Luis Perez was already found not to have violated criminal law, when the state attorney's office declined to file charges against him.
But the boy, Sebastian Gregory, and his parents filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Perez and the county. An appellate court affirmed dismissal of the county, but sent the case back to the District Court so a jury could decide if Perez's actions violated Gregory's right to be free of excessive force.
After a weeklong trial and two hours' deliberation, the four-man, four-woman jury found Perez did not act improperly.
His attorneys, with the Miami-Dade County Attorney's Office, declined to comment.
Gregory, who according to testimony, suffered chronic pain, partial paralysis and loss of some bodily functions from his injuries, committed suicide in January 2016 — something the jury was not told because it was not relevant to the crucial issue: did Perez use reasonably necessary force to eliminate what he reasonably believed was a threat to his life.
The jury quickly found his actions were reasonable.
Perez testified he thought the bulge he saw in Gregory's pocket was a firearm when he saw a section of the metallic object that turned out to be an aluminum tee ball bat. He said he fired nine times when Gregory reached for the object.
"I'm looking at what in no doubt in my mind is a gun," he testified.
Gregory was walking alone west on Sunset Drive at 3:30 am when Perez spotted him and decided to investigate. He ignored repeated commands to get on the ground and show his hands, Perez testified, before eventually lying face down on the sidewalk, Perez said.
It was then that, Perez testified, Gregory made a sudden rolling maneuver toward him and reached for the object and touched it, causing him to open fire.