Ocala, Florida — A civil jury has awarded $2.25 million to the family of Joshua Salvato in the wrongful death case against the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
Salvato was 21-years-old when he was shot and killed by Deputies Lauren Miley and Norman Brown on July 6, 2012.
Deputies had responded to the area of Sunset Harbor Road, Summerfield, Florida in response to a complaint about a man on the side of the road being loud and causing a disturbance. Antomio Romanucci, the attorney for Salvato’s family, says he does not believe that Salvato even matched the description of the suspect that was initially given to deputies.
Deputy Miley was the first on the scene, followed by Deputy Brown.
Salvato was shot following a short altercation with deputies.
The family says Salvato acted out of reflex after Deputy Brown punched Salvato in the face while [he] was getting up off the ground to run.
Romanucci says that Salvato was actually backing away from deputies when Deputy Miley pulled out her weapon and shot Salvato in the torso. Romanucci says after Salvato was shot, he was handcuffed and then tazed more than a dozen times by Deputy Brown while Salvato was lying on the ground bleeding to death.
Romanucci also says that the dashcam video does not match statements given by the deputies. He says Deputy Miley falsified reports in regards to what happened off camera in order to save her job and avoid criminal charges.
“In a situation like this, the best witness is a dead witness to a law enforcement officer,” said Romanucci.
Romanucci said, “Not only did the deputies use excessive and unreasonable force that caused the death of Salvato, they also violated his constitutional rights.”
According to Deputy Miley’s attorney, Walter Ketcham, Salvato eluded deputies by running away, and since he was still at the scene, Deputy Miley was afraid Salvato would come back – so she shot him. Ketcham said it is logical that Deputy Miley thought Salvato would come back to harm her.
Salvato was unarmed and did not have a criminal record when he was shot and killed.
Attorneys for the deputies fell short of calling Salvato a criminal, citing he had dropped out of high school and could not hold down a job.
Romanucci says this type of behavior should not be tolerated in today’s society. He says it is not OK for law enforcement to act as the judge and executioner; and [that] is exactly what Deputy Brown demonstrated when he continually tazed a man after he was on the ground handcuffed and bleeding to death.
The Marion County Sheriff’s Office would not comment, but released the following statement:
“I have received the verdict handed down by the jury this afternoon and am currently reviewing the verdict in consultation with legal counsel. Given the potential for further legal proceedings involving this case, which events took place prior to my administration, it would be premature for me to comment on the verdict at this point. That being said, I thank both the judge and the jurors for their time and the professional manner in which they served in this matter,” Said Sheriff Chris Blair of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.
Ed Dean was the elected sheriff at the time the incident occurred. According to the family’s attorney, the sheriff’s office, while under the direction of Dean, did not investigate the shooting death of Salvato.
The jury said blame should be placed on the Sheriff’s Office for failing to do its job by not investigating this case.
During the trial it was also proven that Salvato most likely endured a lot of pain and suffering as he was being tazed while on the ground bleeding to death.
Vincent Salvato, father to Joshua Salvato, said the only thing he credits the Marion County Sheriff’s Office with is having the video that showed the truth as to how his son died. He said this case is just one of many reasons Marion County Residents no longer trust local law enforcement.
Family attorney Ted Leopold said officers take an oath to protect and preserve life, not take it and abuse the communities trust.
In 2012 a grand jury refused to indict Miley and Brown. Both deputies are currently on jail duty.
Leopold said this win is a huge victory for Salvato’s family as well as Marion County residents.