All over the U.S., Americans watching Daniel Chauvin slowly kill George Floyd have left us as a country wondering about accountability for police officers. Typically, police officers who kill in the line of duty are subject to an internal investigation. These shootings are almost always declared “justified” by the State Attorney.
Such was the case for Vicki Williams, the grieving mother of Tinoris Williams who was fatally shot by Palm Beach Deputy Ernest Cantu. Palm Beach Sheriff Ric Bradshaw then proceeded to stand outside the victim’s apartment complex to talk about how he was a “bad guy” and a “violent felon” who “attacked Cantu” during a burglary.
Vicki Williams says that her son was mentally ill, a fact that Cantu knew after having Tinoris involuntarily committed at a local hospital under the Baker Act.
Reports of a Burglary
Cantu and another deputy were in the neighborhood investigating reports of a burglar at Williams’ apartment complex. After the investigation was concluded, Cantu returned without notifying dispatchers and alone.
Prior to this incident, Cantu and the Williams family had their disagreements, and at one point, Cantu told Vicki Williams that he would “take Tinoris off the streets for good”. It’s for that reason that Vicki Williams believes Cantu came back to their apartment complex—to confront Tinoris Williams and make good on his promise.
Over the last 11 years, there have been several claims of excessive force and brutality from West Palm Beach police officers. In all but one of those incidents, the shooting has been declared justified. In this case, Cantu was cleared of any wrongdoing after claiming that Tinoris Williams reached for his gun.
Sheriff’s Office Settles Lawsuit for $300,000
After hearing that Cantu would not be facing charges for shooting her son to death, the Williams family found an attorney and filed a civil suit against Palm Beach County. The lawsuit claimed that Williams’ death was unjustified. The County settled the lawsuit for $300,000, the statutory maximum for lawsuits against the State of Florida or any of its subordinate governments.
While it’s true that this represents some form of justice for those who lost family to police violence, the standard of proof is lower in civil court making these cases easier to win. The families of victims, however, have little recourse when the same people investigating these incidents are part of the same uniform entity that is responsible for the deaths of their loved ones.
It is for that reason that so many activists are calling for an end to qualified immunity. Qualified immunity prevents police officers from being sued for actions related to their duty, at least directly. Many believe that holding police personally accountable for malicious or negligent actions would have a net positive effect on reducing police violence. Thus far, however, police unions have universally opposed the idea.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’re being charged with a serious crime, call the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at The Skier Law Firm, P.A. today to schedule an appointment and go over your options.