Grand Jury Fails to Indict Former Police Officer in Shooting Death of Unarmed Man

Ben Crump-Derek-Diaz

An Orange County, Florida, grand jury has chosen not to indict former Orlando police officer Jose Velez for the shooting death of 26-year-old Derek Diaz last July, as announced in a news release from State Attorney Andrew Bain on Monday.

After reviewing all pertinent evidence, the grand jury determined that charges against Officer Velez were not legally warranted, according to the release.

The decision comes after months of uncertainty and advocacy from Diaz’s loved ones and members of the community, who have expressed deep concerns over police conduct.

“The community is in pain,” stated Orlando community activist Lawanna Gelzer to CNN. “We cannot have officers think it’s OK to be judge, jury, and executioner.”

The incident occurred around 2 a.m. in downtown Orlando on July 3, 2023 where bodycam footage released by the Orlando Police Department depicted Diaz being shot within a minute of an officer approaching him.

In the footage, Diaz can be seen complying with the officer’s instructions before reaching toward the vehicle’s center console, after which the officer fires a single gunshot.

The police later reported that Diaz discarded an object out of the window after being shot, which was identified as narcotics.

However, no weapon was found in the car during the investigation.

Diaz was transported to the hospital following the encounter, where he succumbed to his injuries.

During a news conference after the shooting, Orlando Police Chief Eric Smith stated that officers were conducting a proactive patrol in response to heightened criminal activity in the downtown area.

Velez, who was placed on paid administrative leave after the incident, resigned from the department in November for reasons unrelated to the shooting, according to a statement from Orlando police.

The Internal Affairs Unit of the Orlando Police Department will conduct a review of the case, with Chief Smith expressing support for the grand jury’s decision, as stated in the police statement.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated the incident before handing the case over to the state attorney’s office, as required by Florida law for all cases involving deadly force by law enforcement.

Following the grand jury’s decision, the case has been officially closed by the state attorney’s office.