Orlando Sentinel by Grace Toohey, Monivette Cordeiro and Cristobal Reyes
August 13, 2020
About two hours after one of his deputies shot and killed 22-year-old Salaythis Melvin in the Florida Mall’s parking lot Friday, Orange County Sheriff John Mina confirmed that a body-worn camera had recorded the incident and told reporters had he had already reviewed it.
The Sheriff’s Office has since refused to make the footage public, even after it was revealed that Melvin, who deputies say had a hand on a gun in his waistband as he fled, had been shot in the back. The agency won’t show it to Melvin’s parents, either, said their attorney, Bradley Laurent.
“The family doesn’t really know what happened,” Laurent said. “It’s our position the family should have a right to see that footage, to see the last moments of their loved one. The mother has a right to see the last moments of her son.”
Law enforcement leaders, including Mina, have touted body-worn cameras as evidence of their commitment to transparency and a tool for holding officers and members of the public alike accountable. But local agencies differ widely in how quickly they release the footage.
The Sheriff’s Office rejected a public record request for the video from the Orlando Sentinel, citing an active investigation of the shooting by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. OCSO also declined an interview request for Mina, citing “potential litigation” because an attorney for the Sentinel had emailed an agency lawyer seeking reconsideration of the video’s release.