A Community Speaks with One Voice: Vigil for Justice for Nicolas Morales Today!

A banner petition, signed by hundreds of Immokalee community members, declares “An injury to one is an injury to all,” demanding accountability for the wrongful death of single father and Immokalee farmworker Nicolas Morales.  The banner will be delivered to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office following a peaceful vigil today in Naples.

CIW’s Lupe Gonzalo in Naples Daily News today: “We want to be treated as human beings. We want sufficient attention being placed on the mental health needs of people in Immokalee.”

Join us today at 3 p.m. at the Collier County Sheriff’s Office in Naples to deliver a petition demanding an end to police brutality for all of Collier County… 

And if you’re not able to join us in person, you can demand justice for Nicolas by calling Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk at 239-252-0555 today! 

Today, September 17, marks the one-year anniversary of the brutal killing of Nicolas Morales, a single father and longtime member of the Immokalee farmworker community, who was shot to death by Cpl. Pierre Jean of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) in the quiet streets of Immokalee’s Farm Worker Village while experiencing a mental health crisis. The events of that fateful night left Nicolas’ 13-year old son orphaned and an entire community fearful for their future.  Since then, the Immokalee community’s fight for justice has been extensively documented on this site and in local papers, and has even made national headlines.  

And still, justice delayed remains justice denied.

Over the last year, Nicolas’ family and the Immokalee community, supported by a coalition of Southwest Florida community leaders, have made urgent calls for transparency, accountability and partnership to prevent future cases of police brutality in Immokalee and all of Collier County, specifically demanding CCSO take the following actions:

  • Form and implement effective, available Crisis Response Teams, pairing trained police officers and mental health professionals, to respond to calls where mental health is a potential issue;
  • Break down the walls between the CCSO and the Immokalee community through aggressive transparency and genuine community participation by establishing an Immokalee-specific Citizens’ Review Panel;
  • Rebuild trust in our justice system with real accountability for the actions of Corporal Pierre Jean and his partners by re-opening the State Attorney and CCSO investigations into their actions that night.  No one is above the law, first and foremost those who enforce it.

To date, the CCSO has failed to meet any of these demands, let alone acknowledge that the events leading up to Nicolas’ tragic and preventable death were indeed egregious violations of CCSO policy and philosophy.  The CCSO’s indifference is unacceptable.  Join Nicolas’ family, farmworkers from Immokalee, and Southwest Florida community leaders for a peaceful vigil and petition delivery at 3 p.m. outside the Collier County Sheriff’s Office in Naples to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Nicolas’ wrongful killing. We will be gathering on the corner of U.S. 41 & Airport Pulling Road.

And if you’re not able to join us in person, or you don’t live in the Southwest Florida area, you can still make your voice heard!  Please call Sheriff Kevin Rambosk at 239-252-0555 and demand CCSO meet Immokalee’s call for a future without police violence in Collier County. Here’s a simple script you can follow:

Hello, my name is ____, and I am calling in support of the demonstration happening today demanding justice for Nicolas Morales, mental health response teams and the creation of an Immokalee resident committee to help prevent future cases of police brutality in Collier County.  A year has gone by without justice for Nicolas’ wrongful killing at the hands of CCSO, and our patience as a community is growing thin. I urge you to meet the demands of Nicolas’ family and the Immokalee community to ensure the safety of all Collier County residents and end police violence once and for all. 

For now, we’ll leave you with this extended excerpt from an article published today by Adam Regan of the Naples Daily News, who spoke with CIW’s Lupe Gonzalo this week about the Immokalee community’s ongoing commitment to establishing meaningful, lasting police reforms in Collier County: 

A year after a Collier County Sheriff’s Office deputy shot and killed an Immokalee man suffering a psychotic break, the man’s community continues to rally for justice.

Two agencies ruled the deputy was justified in his use of deadly force in shooting Nicolas Morales Besanilla, a 37-year old father of a then 12-year old son. However, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers believes it has waited long enough for justice and accountability from a sheriff’s office and county it says frequently leaves the community behind.

The coalition’s plan is to deliver a petition with more than 1,000 signatures to the sheriff’s office at 3 p.m. Friday, the one-year anniversary of the shooting.

They will also stage what they call a peaceful vigil starting at the intersection of Airport-Pulling Road and U.S. 41, and heading nearby toward the Collier County Government Center demanding Morales Besanilla’s death doesn’t remain with impunity and consequences for the three deputies involved. 

Death ‘preventable’

Lupe Gonzalo, a coalition organizer, said the incident that cost the father, who moved from Hidalgo, Mexico, to Florida 10 years ago, his life was “entirely preventable”.

His death is also an opportunity to advocate for more support and resources from the county for Immokalee.

Gonzalo said the sheriff’s office must examine how it handles mental health emergencies and it responds to those in crisis. […]

[…] “We want to be treated as human beings,” Gonzalo added. “We want sufficient attention being placed on the mental health needs of people in Immokalee. We don’t want to be treated differently when it’s convenient for the county to treat us differently.” […]

[…] Brent Probinsky, who is representing the Morales family, isn’t surprised by the State Attorney’s Office’s and the sheriff’s office’s investigations.

“First, who does the investigation of law enforcement?” Probinsky asked. “Neither investigation was conducted by an independent agency.”

He is spearheading the family’s push for an investigation conducted by an independent agency. Additionally, he is preparing a lawsuit to be filed on behalf of the family in the next couple of months.

“When there are mental health issues they should be trained to deal with those issues, to defray these issues,” Probinsky said of deputies.

Gonzalo hopes Morales Besanilla will be the last person suffering from mental health issues killed by deputies.

Wanting collaboration

The coalition’s petition demands the sheriff’s office implement crisis response teams that pair police officers with mental health professionals to take care of the individuals that might need those services during calls.

“We need these mental health professionals to be accompanying these officers on the ground here in Immokalee on the streets as they’re responding to calls that take place,” Gonzalo said. […]

[…] “Our actions on Friday are to prevent future violence from taking place in our community and demanding that we are given resources to protect and to create a safe environment in Immokalee,” Gonzalo said.

“And, again, ensure there isn’t different treatment taking place by police officers to the residents here in Immokalee. And that there’s meaningful and lasting change.”