At 3:30 a.m. Monday, May 28, 2012, Miami-Dade County Police Officer Luis Perez drove his squad car through the Hammocks area of West Kendall on a hot and humid morning. He passed a teenager, later identified as 16-year-old Sebastian Gregory, wearing a baggy black sweater, black pants, beanie cap, black shoes, and what Perez later claimed was a gun sticking out of the teen’s pants. Perez claimed Gregory reached for the supposed gun while he was lying on the ground, so the officer fired six rounds into the teenager’s back.
The gun turned out to be a metal baseball bat.
Gregory miraculously survived and sued MDPD in April 2013 for using excessive force and violating his civil rights. But before he could see the case to its end, he killed himself in January 2016 after struggling for years with medical problems stemming from his wounds, including a paralyzed leg.
Gregory’s father, Andres, continued to fight in court. Though Officer Perez initially succeeded in having the case killed, on November 17, Gregory’s family won a judgment against the cop and the police department in a federal appellate court and succeeded in reopening the case, which will now proceed with a full trial.
The judge in the case suggested police will have tough questions to answer about why Perez shot an unarmed teen so many times as he lay on the ground.
“This case involves not just any battery — such as punching, kicking, or beating — but an egregious, aggravated battery of shooting Gregory with a firearm in the back,” federal circuit Judge Frank Hull wrote. “Under Gregory’s pled facts, there is not even a pretense of a lawful right to shoot Gregory in the performance of Officer Perez’s duties.”
Hull added that the case was remanded down to the Southern District of Florida for “a trial on the remaining claims.”
In light of the dire facts of Gregory’s case — even before his tragic suicide — it’s surprising the story hasn’t received more publicity. In 2014, Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle closed an investigation into the shooting and cleared Perez of any wrongdoing. The latest court decision raises new questions as to why Rundle’s office failed to take action for what a federal judge now suggests could be an illegal shooting. (As previously reported, Rundle’s office had cleared every single on-duty officer who had shot a suspect from her election in 1993 until 2017, when she charged North Miami Police Officer Jonathan Aledda with attempted manslaughter for shooting an unarmed citizen, Charles Kinsey, in the leg. She has still never charged a police officer for actually killing someone on the job.)
No one called police about Gregory the day he was shot. Perez simply drove past a teenager in a sweatshirt and thought he looked suspicious. Perez turned on his lights, got out of his car, and drew his gun while Gregory walked.
Perez, for some reason, approached with his gun drawn from the outset of the encounter. After Perez shouted and identified himself, the teen stopped and turned around.