A Florida man is facing charges of false imprisonment after illegally detaining a young Black teenager, WFLA reports.
The original incident occurred last month, on June 9, but Luis Santos, 54, was only arrested last Saturday (although he has since been bonded out.)
Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren’s Office, who says it appears to be a case of racial profiling, said that Santos stopped the teen, who remains unidentified, as he was riding his bicycle to basketball practice at 5:34 a.m.
Santos then called the police on the young boy, telling operators that the boy was breaking into cars (which he wasn’t) and that he may have also stolen a bike (he didn’t.)
Santos also told the 911 operator that he was an off-duty officer, which he wasn’t, instead being a former security guard, according to the Washington Post.
“The evidence shows the victim had not committed any crime and Santos made misleading statements to law enforcement about what he had witnessed,” Warren’s office told WFLA. “The young man felt threatened and was not free to leave, while Santos acted as though he had the legal authority of a law enforcement officer, including compelling the victim to put his hands in the air until sheriff’s deputies arrived.”
Cell phone footage shows Santos approaching the teen asking a series of questions including, “You work here? You live here?”
“Where you live?” Santos demanded of the teen, who answered him.
“You’re not going anywhere,” Santos suddenly states. “You’re being detained.”
The clearly flustered teenager says “I’m sorry,” before the footage cuts off.
Santos then forced the teen to put his hands up while holding his hand near his pocket, which the news site reports may have been an attempt to indicate that he had a gun.
“The victim was visibly shaken and hyperventilating when deputies arrived, with his hands still over his head,” Warren’s office said. “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.”
Actual law enforcement agents helped escort the teen to his practice following the incident.
“We don’t want people taking the law into their own hands. We charged the case here because there is evidence he committed a crime and because it serves the purpose of showing that we’re not going to tolerate vigilantes, who are accosting people, especially when they’re doing it just based on how that person looks,” Warren added.