Florida man accused of illegally detaining Black 18-year-old heading to basketball practice
Luis Orlando Santos Santiago, 54, acted as a “vigilante,” prosecutors said.
July 29, 2020, 6:24 PM
6 min read
A former Florida theme park security guard has been arrested for allegedly acting like a “vigilante” when he “racially profiled” and falsely detained a Black teen who was on his way to basketball practice, prosecutors said.
The 18-year-old was riding his bicycle during the early morning hours of June 8 when Luis Santos drove his car alongside the teenager.
“You work here? You live here?” asked Santos, 54, as he recorded with a cellphone, according to excerpts released by prosecutors.
The teenager stopped and answered Santos’ questions before the situation quickly escalated.
“You’re not going anywhere,” said Santos, stepping out of his vehicle. “You’re being detained. You’re not going anywhere.”
Before the 30-second video stopped, the young man said he was “sorry.”
Santos called 911 claiming that the unidentified teenager was seen on video “breaking into cars” and that he thought the teen had stolen a bike. Prosecutors with the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office said there was no evidence of any crimes.
Santos identified himself to the 911 operator as an off-duty officer, according to the call recording. Santos had left his job as a theme park security guard six months prior to the incident, but because his required security officer certifications were still valid at the time he confronted the teenager, he isn’t being accused of impersonating an officer, prosecutors said.
Still, prosecutors said, Santos had no legal authority to detain the 18-year-old.
“What happened that morning should upset everyone in our community. We have skilled police officers — we don’t need vigilantes confronting people on the street,” State Attorney Andrew Warren said in a statement concerning what “appears to be a case of racial profiling.”
Santos classified himself as a white Hispanic and listed his employment as a shop assistant in Tampa, according to jail records.
It took local sheriff’s deputies about eight minutes to arrive after Santos’ call, during which the teen, who kept his hands in the air, was terrified as Santos allegedly placed his right hand over his pants pocket in a “manner that made the victim feel as if the defendant may have a weapon, even though none was seen,” according to the criminal affidavit.
When deputies arrived, they “calmed the situation down and comforted the victim. Then they took this vigilante to task for what he’d done and referred the case to our office for potential charges,” Warren added. One officer then took the 18-year-old to his basketball practice.
“There have been recent examples of confrontations like this across the country that have ended tragically. The fact that this didn’t end with a loss of life doesn’t make it any less of a crime. What Mr. Santos did is unacceptable and illegal — now he’ll face consequences for his actions,” Warren said.
Santos was released on $2,000 bond on July 25, according to online jail records. If convicted on felony third-degree false imprisonment charges, he could see up to five years in prison. Michelle Borton, an attorney for Santos, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from ABC News.
The case is reminiscent of what led to the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer in his Florida community. Zimmerman was acquitted of Martin’s murder after a jury trial in which he claimed to have acted in self defense.