© 2024 Central Florida Public Media. All Rights Reserved.
90.7 FM Orlando • 89.5 FM Ocala
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'This should not have happened': Grand jury critical of Osceola sheriff's office in fatal shooting

Andrew Bain
Florida 9th Judicial Circuit State Attorney's Office
State Attorney Andrew Bain released a grand jury report on Thursday.

An Osceola County grand jury that in January declined to press charges against deputies involved in a fatal shooting has now issued a report sharply critical of the Sheriff's Office.

The grand jury met over four months.Their report was issued Wednesday and released on Thursday.

The grand jurors reviewed the April 27, 2022, shooting death of 21-year-old Jayden Baez, who was behind the wheel of a car in a Target parking lot at 4795 W. Irlo Brunson Memorial Highway in Kissimmee.

Deputies, including a trainee, had been taking part in a training exercise nearby and responded to a shoplifting incident using a vehicle block, surrounding Baez's car with four unmarked units.

The grand jury presentment says Baez tried to drive away, but a sergeant stepped out of one unit into the car's path, putting himself in danger. That sergeant and another officer fired into the car, killing Baez and injuring two passengers.

"Our conclusion bluntly is that this should not have happened," the grand jury report states. "Our findings uncovered grave concerns about whether the appropriate amount of force was used to apprehend misdemeanor shoplifters and how insufficient training around vehicle blocks and lack of communication needlessly created circumstances where a deputy was faced with death or great bodily harm."

At a press conference Thursday, State Attorney Andrew Bain summed up the report.

"The grand jury determined the Osceola County Sheriff's Office approach to this incident was problematic, impulsive and unplanned, he said.

The grand jury recommended several policy changes for vehicle blocks, including not using them for misdemeanors.

One of the biggest challenges in reviewing the case was the lack of footage from body-worn cameras, the report says. "In 2022, much less 2024, there appears to be no reason for a law enforcement officer who is anticipating the detention or arrest of a member of the public not to be wearing or using a body worn camera."

The grand jurors concluded by saying they invited Osceola County Sheriff Marcos Lopez to testify and "address our concerns with his agency's actions" but he declined.

Baez's father, Alejandro Baez, said he was "happy" with the grand jury recommendations.

"I miss my son every day," he added. "I just don't want no other family's parents to have to go through something like this."

At the press conference, Mark Nejame, an attorney for Baez's family, said that blame lay with the Sheriff's Office and ultimately with the sheriff.

"We could not have written this report any better ourselves," NeJame said. "It's everything we've been saying."

He is representing the family in a civil rights lawsuit against the sheriff and two deputies.

The Sheriff's Office has already made some of the policy changes recommended by the grand jury.

For his part, Sheriff Lopez said in a written statement that he'll consider the recommendations. He thanked the grand jury for its "wisdom" in clearing his deputies.

Joe Byrnes came to Central Florida Public Media from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.
Related Content