Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez held a press conference on Wednesday where he thanked a Florida Grand Jury for its decision not to charge two of his deputies involved in a controversial shooting on April 27, 2022 outside a Kissimmee Target store. The shooting resulted in the death of 20-year-old Jayden Baez and injuries to Joseph Lowe, Michael Gomez, and Ian Joi, following an alleged theft of Pokemon cards and pizza.

“It’s always tragic when it becomes necessary for law enforcement officers to use deadly force. My thoughts are with the individuals and their families involved with this situation. Hopefully the decision of the Grand Jurors will help those affected gain closure and begin the healing process,” Sheriff Lopez shared during the press conference.

Sheriff Lopez acknowledged the lengthy 20-month period before the deputies were cleared, expressing regret over the delay and emphasizing the need for swifter investigations in officer-involved shootings. The Sheriff also highlighted upcoming policy changes within the Sheriff’s Office, including the modification of tactics like ‘boxing’, a procedure he said were inherited from previous administrations.

“An officer that uses deadly force appropriately should never, and I repeat, never be treated as a criminal,” Sheriff Lopez said.

Sheriff Lopez challenged the narrative that the deputies responded to a minor theft with excessive force, asserting that the deputy’s lives were endangered by the driver of the vehicle, who the sheriff said made a bad decision that day by ignoring lawful commands and using his vehicle as a deadly weapon to strike the deputies.

The case, unsettled for over 11 months under former State Attorney Monique Worrell, was resolved after her successor, Andrew Bain, appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis, announced that a Florida Grand Jury had concluded that no charges would be brought against the deputies. This was the first application of the state attorney’s revised policy, which delegates the decision-making on charges involving deadly force incidents to a grand jury.

“It’s unfortunate that the two deputies that fired their weapons in this case had to wait 20 months to be told that they were rightfully and legally performing their jobs as a deputy sheriff,” the Sheriff added during the press conference.

Contrasting the Sheriff’s perspective, Orlando Attorney Mark NeJame expressed skepticism about the grand jury’s decision. The grand jury is expected to provide recommendations on the handling of such situations in the coming months.

Sheriff Lopez says he looks forward to future comments coming from the Grand Jury and expressed his openness to introducing reforms within the sheriff’s office following the fatal shooting incident. He mentioned that several changes have already been put into effect, including the enhancement and acquisition of more body cameras, as well as the adoption of distinct approaches for handling misdemeanor and felony cases.