A Florida man has been charged for illegally detaining a Black teenager in a case that is now being investigated as possible racial profiling. According to the Hillsborough State Attorney’s Office, 54-year-old Luis Santos held an unidentified teenager against his will while he was biking to basketball practice and accused the teen of breaking into cars.
Cellphone video of the June 9 incident that was provided to local outlet 8 On Your Side showed Santos pull up to the teen in his car at 5:34 a.m.
“You’re not going anywhere,” Santos tells the 18-year-old, as well as, “You’re being detained.”
Santos asked the teen if he lives in the neighborhood and demanded an answer as to why he was biking so early in the morning. He later called 911 and claimed, “I have somebody breaking into cars. We have it on video.”
When asked by the 911 operator about the teen’s race, Santos replies, “He’s a Black guy.”
“I think he stole one of the bikes,” he adds. Santos then falsely identified himself to the operator as an off-duty police officer.
Prosecutors say Santos also instructed the teen to put his hands up and kept his own hands near his pocket, as if to indicate that he had a concealed firearm.
“The victim was visibly shaken and hyperventilating when deputies arrived, with his hands still over his head,” Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren said. “He reasonably believed his life may be in jeopardy if he tried to leave or even move. Santos had no lawful authority to restrain a person in a public place and his own recorded words establish that he was restraining the victim, by threat, against his will.”
According to ABC News, Santos is not being accused of impersonating a police officer because his security officer certifications from being a theme park security guard were still valid at the time. However, he had no legal authority to detain the teen. Warren filed the false imprisonment charge against Santos after he was arrested on Saturday (July 26).
“The evidence shows the victim had not committed any crime and Santos made misleading statements to law enforcement about what he had witnessed,” his office wrote in an email, per WFLA. “The young man felt threatened and was not free to leave, while Santos acted as though he had the legal authority of a law enforcement officer, including compelling the victim to put his hands in the air until sheriff’s deputies arrived.”
“What happened that morning should upset everyone in our community,” Warren further explained in a statement. “We have skilled police officers. We don’t need vigilantes confronting people on the street.”
After the incident, a Hillsborough County sheriff’s deputy reportedly hooked up the teenager’s bike and drove him to his basketball practice. If convicted, Santos could face up to five years in prison.