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Florida police circles surveillance plane over press conference about cop killing of 2 black teens

Florida Highway Patrol circled a surveillance plane over a press conference held by civil rights attorney Ben Crump where he announced a lawsuit against a cop who shot and killed two black teenagers

Flight data, first reviewed by Motherboard for Vice, revealed that a small Cessna plane with the tail number N267HP repeatedly flew in circles above the area where Crump was holding a briefing Friday morning at the Moore Justice Center in Viera in the Brevard County region of Florida.

Online records show the aircraft has been registered to the Florida Highway Patrol since June 2006. 

In the press conference, Crump and attorney Natalie Jackson announced the filing of a suit brought by the families of Sincere Pierce, 18, and Angelo ‘AJ’ Crooms, 16, against Brevard County Deputy Jafet Santiago-Mirando and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office. 

Crump also demanded the Justice Department launch a federal investigation into the teens’ deaths and to review a local prosecutor’s decision not to bring any charges against the officer who fired the fatal shots.

Santiago-Mirando fired 10 shots into the car the two black teens were driving during a traffic stop in November 2020. 

Florida Highway Patrol circled a surveillance plane over a press conference held by civil rights attorney Ben Crump where he announced a lawsuit against a cop who shot and killed two black teenagers. Pictured the path of the plane circling the area 

Flight data (seen above) revealed that a small Cessna plane with the tail number N267HP repeatedly flew in circles above the area where Crump was holding a briefing Friday morning at the Moore Justice Center in Viera in the Brevard County region of Florida

Flight data (seen above) revealed that a small Cessna plane with the tail number N267HP repeatedly flew in circles above the area where Crump was holding a briefing Friday morning at the Moore Justice Center in Viera in the Brevard County region of Florida

Online records show the aircraft (like the one pictured above) has been registered to the Florida Highway Patrol since June 2006

Online records show the aircraft (like the one pictured above) has been registered to the Florida Highway Patrol since June 2006

The publicly available flight data, on FlightAware, confirms the plane’s presence circling the area at the time of the 10 am press conference. 

It shows the aircraft – a piston-single Cessna Skyhawk piston-single – departed from Orlando Executive airport at 9:46 am Friday morning and headed to the area above the Moore Justice Center.

It then flew in a loop around the same spot at least 20 times before flying back to the Orlando Executive where it arrived at 11:16 am.  

During the press conference, an aircraft could be heard loudly overhead.

Crump – who helped secure a landmark $27 million settlement for the family of George Floyd last month – even made reference to an aircraft circling above. 

At one point, he tells Crooms’ mom Tasha Strachan to ‘talk a little bit louder’ because of the noise of an aircraft overhead, as he pointed up to the sky. 

DailyMail.com has reached out to Florida Highway Patrol about the purpose of the surveillance plane at Friday’s press conference. 

The department’s Chief of Public Affairs Captain Peter A. Bergstresser told Motherboard that the surveillance plane was monitoring the flow of traffic and crowds and that no cameras or recording equipment were on board the aircraft at the time.

‘The aircraft was used to monitor and ensure the proper flow of traffic and crowds around the immediate area,’ he said. 

In the press conference, Crump and attorney Natalie Jackson announced the filing of a suit brought by the families of Sincere Pierce, 18, and Angelo 'AJ' Crooms, 16, against Brevard County Deputy Jafet Santiago-Mirando and the Brevard County Sheriff's Office

In the press conference, Crump and attorney Natalie Jackson announced the filing of a suit brought by the families of Sincere Pierce, 18, and Angelo ‘AJ’ Crooms, 16, against Brevard County Deputy Jafet Santiago-Mirando and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office

Crump also demanded the Justice Department launch a federal investigation into the teens' deaths and to review a local prosecutor's decision not to bring any charges against the officer

Crump also demanded the Justice Department launch a federal investigation into the teens’ deaths and to review a local prosecutor’s decision not to bring any charges against the officer

In the press conference, Crump told a crowd of around 50 supporters and members of the media the family of Crooms and Pierce had filed a suit as he vowed they ‘are not going ‘going to let you kill them and think that they don’t matter.’   

‘It is with a heavy heart that we are fighting for the dignity of two teenagers’ who were killed ‘unjustifiably,’ Crump said, per WESH

‘We’re not going to let you kill them and think that they don’t matter.’ 

He hit out at the deaths of the two teens saying the sheriff’s deputy involved did ‘not following the national standards’ of policing.

‘The Sheriffs’ Department here in Brevard County are not following the national standards. They’re saying that it’s appropriate to shoot into moving cars when everybody else in America says that’s asinine, it’s dangerous,’ Crump said. 

He added: ‘For allegedly running a stop sign, you shoot and kill these babies.’

Jackson said the issue goes beyond the deaths of the two teens. 

‘You will see the allegations we have are not only against the officers, because the officer is born of a culture that Wayne Ivey has provided for his officers in Brevard County,’ she said.  

A.J. Crooms

Sincere Pierce

AJ Crooms (left) and Sincere Pierce (right) were shot and killed during a traffic stop on November 13 2020 in Cocoa city

Deputy Jafet Santiago-Miranda of Brevard County Sheriff's Office in Florida is seen firing into the Volkswagen the two teens were driving

Deputy Jafet Santiago-Miranda of Brevard County Sheriff’s Office in Florida is seen firing into the Volkswagen the two teens were driving

The announcement of the suit came just one day after the Brevard and Seminole County State Attorney Phil Archer said the police killing of the two teens was ‘justified’ and that no charges would be brought against the deputy. 

Pierce and Crooms were shot and killed during a traffic stop on November 13 in Cocoa city.

Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said Santiago-Mirando and Deputy Carson Hendren spotted the vehicle being driven by Crooms and believed it may have been a stolen car that had fled from another deputy moments earlier.  

Dashcam footage of the encounter released last year showed the deputies pulling up behind the teens’ car as it backs into a driveway of a nearby home. 

Both deputies exit their vehicles and, as they do so, Crooms begins to back out of the driveway again and turns the front of the vehicle back in the direction of the two cop cars. 

Voices can be heard telling the teens to ‘stop the vehicle’ as the car moves slowly forward in the direction of Santiago-Miranda with its wheels turned towards the curb. 

Santiago-Miranda fired 10 bullets into the vehicle.   

State Attorney Phil Archer ruled the shooting reasonable and justifiable last week, claiming the deputy feared for his life.   

The sheriff’s office has previously claimed the officer was ‘forced to fire’ as the teens were attempting to run the car into him.  

But the families of the two teens have repeatedly disputed this.  

The top speed of Crooms’ car was recorded at 12 miles per hour, according to Archer’s disposition letter. 

Investigators later confirmed Crooms’ car – a gray Volkswagen Passat was not stolen and did not have the same registration plates as the stolen vehicle they were looking for.

Demand for a DOJ probe comes at a time when the nation is being rocked by multiple cop killings of black people across America. 

Last week, white cop Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all charges in the murder of black man George Floyd, who was killed in Minneapolis in May 2020. 

Minutes before the Chauvin verdict, black 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was shot dead by a cop in Columbus, Ohio, while lunging at a woman with a knife. 

AJ Crooms, 16, was driving the car

AJ Crooms

Last week, the Brevard and Seminole County State Attorney Phil Archer said the police killing of the two teens (Crooms pictured) was ‘justified’

The families of the teens (Pierce pictured) dispute that the deputy fired as he feared for his life

The families of the teens (Pierce pictured) dispute that the deputy fired as he feared for his life

In the days that followed, Andrew Brown, 42, was shot in the back and killed by North Carolina cops.

He was driving away from sheriff’s deputies at the time, with pressure growing on Pasquotank County Sheriff’s Office to release bodycam footage of the father of 10’s final moments.  

Over in Virginia, 32-year-old man Isaiah Brown was shot 10 times and remains in a critical condition when a deputy apparently mistook a cordless house phone for a gun.  

Last Friday’s press conference is not the first time law enforcement agencies have used aerial surveillance to monitor Americans protesting the police killings of black people. 

A Buzzfeed investigation last June found that the FBI was using its most advanced spy plane, a Cessna Citation jet, to watch over Black Lives Matter protesters in the wake of Floyd’s death.  

Flight data showed the spy plane flew over central Washington DC surveilling the protests belong on June 1 – hours after Donald Trump’s infamous photo op outside St John’s Episcopal Church where authorities tear-gassed peaceful protesters out of the way.

The plane was also used to monitor protests over the death of Freddie Gray in polie custody in Baltimore back in 2015. 

The aircraft is typically reserved for top-secret surveillance missions.   


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