New video from Phoenix, AZ, provides timely reminder that a preventable police killing can never be justified…

Banner petition, signed by over 1,000 Immokalee community members, declares that “An injury to one is an injury to all” and demands accountability for the wrongful death of single father and Immokalee farmworker Nicolas Morales.

Video of recent police shooting in Phoenix, AZ, provides timely, real-world demonstration of the actions and decisions Collier County Sheriff’s Office deputies could have made to avoid unnecessarily taking the life of the devoted, single father of a 12-yr old boy in Immokalee’s farmworker village last year…

Video comes in wake of dismal Citizens Review Panel (CRP) meeting in Naples where panel abdicated oversight role, rubber stamped exoneration of officers involved in last year’s brutal killing of Nicolas Morales (more to come on that front soon…)

Earlier this year, we shared the news of a California District Attorney who charged a police officer with the San Leandro Police Department in September of 2020 with felony manslaughter for what the DA called the “unreasonable use of deadly force.”  In arriving at her decision to prosecute, the DA found that the officer’s “failure to attempt other de-escalation options… rendered his use of deadly force unreasonable and a violation” of state law.  You can see our original post on that case, comparing Nicolas Morales’s killing at the hands of Corporal Pierre Jean of the Collier County Sheriff’s Office to the killing in California — and, most importantly, comparing the differing decisions regarding the criminal liability of the officers involved made by the Florida State Attorney, in Nicolas’s case, and by her counterpart in the California District Attorney’s office — here

The lesson from the CA shooting is as obvious as it is simple: The use of deadly force by a police officer can only be considered reasonable when it is deployed as a last resort, because to kill another human being when it was fully possible not to do so is wrong, whether the killer was wearing a uniform or not.  

Today, we’d like to share news of yet another similar (though, thankfully, not fatal) police shooting that recently took place in Phoenix, Arizona.  In particular, we’d like to share a video from that shooting that raises the question of how the officers involved in Nicolas’s killing could have acted differently to avoid needlessly taking another human being’s life.  Like the California case, the Phoenix video is an invaluable reminder of the awesome power over life and death that we have vested in each and every police officer across this country, of the solemn responsibility those officers have to only use that power as a last resort, and of what we must do when that responsibility is abused.  

Here below are the two videos, the first the sadly familiar footage of Nicolas’s shooting, the second the shooting in Phoenix.  Again, we understand that it is difficult — indeed, extremely painful — to watch these videos.  We warn readers for whom the trauma of witnessing this horrific violence might be, in fact, too painful, against viewing them.  But we present this comparison in the interest of understanding exactly why Nicolas’s killing was entirely preventable, and why his killers should be held accountable for their actions, because the officers’ actions cannot be adequately analyzed without taking fully into account the back and forth between action and response, between police officers and the people against whom they use deadly force.  In the final analysis, neither the officers’ nor the civilians’ behavior can be properly understood in a vacuum, and the comparison of these two videos provides an invaluable reminder of that essential truth.



Among a flood of questions prompted by the videos (including what role the race of the two civilians involved might have played in shaping the officers’ respective actions and decisions), here are three crucial procedural questions to consider, along three key dimensions — space, time, and degree of force:

  1. Space:

    Corporal Pierre Jean took approximately 22 steps from the moment he stepped out of his police cruiser until the moment he pulled the trigger to kill Nicolas.  Of those 22 steps, not one was backward (and only two were sideways, after he had closed the space between himself and Nicolas and began mirroring Nicolas’s movements in the final seconds before killing him).  From the moment he arrived, Cpl. Jean advanced headlong, without pause, into the very small radius of possible threat posed by what he says he believed was a man wielding a knife.  By aggressively — and needlessly — closing the distance between Nicolas and himself and stepping into that radius, Cpl. Jean eliminated alternative courses of action that could have served to de-escalate the conflict and actually created the danger he would later cite as the reason for killing Nicolas.  

    The officer in Phoenix, on the other hand, took countless steps backward, maintaining at all times a safe distance from her assailant.  

    Why — if he believed Nicolas to be armed only with a knife, while he himself was armed with a gun and was accompanied by two partners also armed with guns and a police K-9 — didn’t Cpl. Jean back up and maintain a safe distance from Nicolas, as the officer did in Phoenix?

  2. Time:

    Why did Cpl. Jean decide to kill Nicolas only 13 seconds after he stepped out of his police cruiser, while nearly a full minute passed before the officer in Phoenix pulled her trigger?  

    By any objective measure, the civilian in Phoenix was far more aggressive than was Nicolas, continually advancing on, and repeatedly lunging at, the officer, all the while verbally threatening her multiple times before ultimately being shot; Nicolas’s movements, on the other hand, are better described as evasive than aggressive, moving largely parallel to the officers and dropping the shovel he had been holding when they arrived.  

    Why didn’t Cpl. Jean and his partners take more time to assess the situation before pulling the trigger and loosing their K-9, particularly given, a) the many obvious indications that Nicolas was experiencing a mental health crisis at the time, and b) the total absence of any other people in the street who might have been endangered by Nicolas’s actions if Cpl. Jean and his partners were to have taken more time to back up and contain the situation?

  3. Lethal Force: Why did Cpl. Jean shoot Nicolas four times from close range in the torso, almost guaranteeing his death, while the officer in Phoenix shot only once and in the area of the assailant’s legs, almost guaranteeing his survival?

There are many more issues raised by the comparison of the two videos, but, remember these questions when we return to the CRP’s review of Nicolas’s shooting in a coming post, soon, where the issues mentioned above — in particular the two key questions of space and time — were discussed, and dismissed, by the CRP in determining whether the use of force was reasonable.  In the stark light of the difference between these two shootings, the utter failure of the civilian members of the CRP to hold the CCSO officers accountable for their reckless and violent behavior, is, quite frankly, a disgrace.  It brings dishonor on them and on the community that the CCSO (who appointed the CRP members, police and civilian alike) claims they represent.