Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office prosecutors arraigned Luis Santos Wednesday morning on a false imprisonment charge in a case with the trappings of racial profiling.
It’s the latest development in a case involving the false detainment of a Black teenager, who’s name has not being released because of his age. Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren filed the charge against Santos last month.
The incident occurred at about 5:30 a.m. June 9 in Seffner. Santos stopped the victim as he was riding his bike on his way to basketball practice. Santos held the teenager there against his will, accusing him of committing crimes and detaining him until law enforcement arrived. The State Attorney’s Office thinks this is a case of racial profiling.
“What happened that morning should upset everyone in our community,” Warren said. “We have skilled police officers — we don’t need vigilantes confronting people on the street.”
Evidence shows the victim had not committed any crime and Santos made misleading statements to law enforcement about what he had witnessed, according to a release from the 13th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office.
Santos acted as if he had the same legal authority as a law enforcement officer, according to the release, and the teenager felt threatened and was not free to leave. Santos compelled the victim to put his hands up until sheriff’s deputies arrived.
“There have been recent examples of confrontations like this across the country that have ended tragically. The fact that this didn’t end with a loss of life doesn’t make it any less of a crime,” Warren said. “What Mr. Santos did is unacceptable and illegal — now he’ll face
The hearing on Wednesday morning was held via Zoom before Judge Mark R. Wolfe. Santos now faces a third degree felony charge of false imprisonment, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison if convicted.
Santos, who did not appear during the hearing, pleaded not guilty.
Video and 911 audio recordings of the event show Santos aggressively approached the victim and said “you’re not going anywhere. You’re being detained.”
Santos held his hand near his pocket, leading the victim to believe he had a gun. Santos continued by claiming, “I’m an off-duty officer.”
After deputies arrived, the victim was visibly shaken and hyperventilating, his hands still over his head. The victim had been on his way to an early morning basketball practice with a jump rope, basketball and gym shoes in his backpack.
After reviewing the case, the State Attorney’s Office interviewed the victim on July 20, and Warren approved the charge against Santos the next day.
“I want to commend the sheriff’s deputies who responded to the scene,” Warren said. “They calmed the situation down and comforted
Santos later admitted to deputies he had not seen any crimes and a search of Sheriff’s Office records found no similar
Santos previously worked as a security officer at a theme park but had quit the job more than six months before — because his required security officer certifications were still valid at the time of the incident, he did not commit false personation.