He Died After He Was Shot in the Back by a Cop. Will Anyone Be Held Accountable?

Salaythis Melvin's family says they want justice.


The family of a man who was shot in the back by a Florida police officer filed a civil suit in federal court Wednesday, alleging that Salaythis Melvin's constitutional rights were violated when a plainclothes cop killed him in a parking lot as he ran away.

The lawsuit, filed by Michelin D. McKee, a representative for Melvin's estate, seeks damages from Orange County Sheriff's Office (OSCO) Deputy James Montiel, the shooter; four deputies who declined to immediately give aid to Melvin as he was dying; and Sheriff John Mina, for fostering what the suit says is a reckless culture where plainclothes units can "be mistaken for criminals."

On August 7 of last year, officers with the OCSO zeroed in on a group standing outside the Florida Mall. One of the men had a warrant out for his arrest.

That man wasn't Melvin, who officers did not ID until after he'd been shot. The warrant was instead for Vanshawn Sands, who police sought to detain for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

"Mr. Sands possessed and used that firearm to defend himself when he was a victim of a drive by shooting in which the police cleared him of the shooting because they concluded that Mr. Sands use of the gun was in self-defense," the suit claims. That case was dropped on June 14 of this year. "Because Mr. Sands had recently been the victim of a drive by shooting, Mr. Sands, Mr. Melvin, and the other individuals in the group immediately took off running for their lives thinking they were about to be attacked and shot at as retaliation for what happen with Mr. Sands."

The cops were dressed in street clothes and body vests and were driving unmarked cars. One officer's body camera footage shows Melvin falling to the ground after Deputy James Montiel shoots him in the back. A little more than a minute goes by before anyone renders him support.

"Keep your fucking hands down," one officer yells as Melvin lies on the ground. More time passes, and he begins to writhe. "Get your hand down or you gonna get fucking shot," one screams. Shortly after, he is handcuffed. Melvin later died.

Though the OCSO did not respond to requests for comment, department incident reports reviewed by the local CBS affiliate contain an allegation from Montiel that Melvin possessed a handgun in his waistband. The body cam footage that captures the shooting did not come from Montiel—the sheriff says he had not been assigned one—and the officer wearing it is not close enough for the viewer to see a gun on Melvin's person. According to a report from the Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office, the officer said he feared Melvin might shoot him because he turned his head as he was running. 

"Based on what the video appears to depict, it's hard to see how this could be a legally justifiable use of lethal force," says Clark Neily, senior vice president for legal studies at the Cato Institute. "It is black letter law that police may not use lethal force to stop a person from fleeing unless the person represents an immediate danger to the officer or to the public, and I see nothing in this video that suggests Mr. Melvin represented a threat to anyone when the officer shot him."

Those who want to sue the government for misconduct, like Melvin's family, often run headfirst into qualified immunity, the judicial doctrine that allows state actors to evade civil liability if the exact way in which they infringed on a person's constitutional rights has not been prohibited by a prior court ruling. Recent beneficiaries of qualified immunity include two cops who burned a suicidal man alive after they tased him despite knowing he was drenched in gasoline; a cop who shot and killed a man who'd been sleeping in his car; and more than two dozen cops who threw flash-bang grenades into an innocent, elderly man's home during a SWAT raid gone wrong.

Whether or not the doctrine applies here will be fairly straightforward, notes Neily. "The only dispute should be a fact question about whether Mr. Melvin represented a threat to the officer or the public at the time the officer shot him. If yes, then the shooting will be considered justified and therefore not excessive force," he says. "If no, then the shooting would be unreasonable and therefore a violation of Mr. Melvin's clearly established right to be free from excessive force."

Neily adds that the courts "can be quite creative in conjuring up qualified immunity defenses." One such example: A cop who shot a 10-year-old while aiming at a nonthreatening dog received qualified immunity because no court precedent dictated that shooting someone while aiming at something else is unconstitutional. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit passed down that ruling, which is the same circuit that will ultimately hear the Melvin estate's suit.

Montiel is still on duty in an "investigative capacity." The Orange-Osceola State Attorney's Office has not announced whether it will bring charges against him. 

NEXT: An Afghan Engineer Who Served the U.S. Military Had His Visa Denied Because the State Department Can't Reverify His Kidnapped Supervisor's Support

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  1. Maybe the police officer mistook him for a dog?

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    2. I am sure the man unfortunately turned around presenting his back to the bullet in the moment between the officer firing his weapon and the bullet striking him in the back. That is what always happens. Think about the odd of that happening, probably 100%!. (sarc)

  2. So, presumably the point of going in plainclothes is to make it harder to identify them as police. Yet they expect the people they attack to immediately identify them as police and behave accordingly. Something seems pretty wrong there.

    1. Something? When was the last time a SWAT raid went “right”?

  3. Ashli Babbitt. Say her name.

    1. Traitor Ashli Babbit.

      She didn’t deserve to die, but fuck her supporters.

      1. Fuck off shitstain. You need to end your nasty oxygen habit.

        1. Sorry! I’ll let you get back to fucking your cousin you backwards rube.

          1. Awfully ironic coming from you, sarcasmic, since you lost custody of your children for raping your underage daughter.

        2. Argumentum Ad Hominem

      2. Funny how people turn from whoopers for liberty into copsuckers when the King’s Men kill somebody whose politics they dislike.

        1. Injecting some clarity, Babbit was the king’s, King Rat Trump, woman. She was killed by the Queen’s, Queen Piglosi, man. Government’s goons killing one another has its merits.

        2. Yeah it is funny. All the Trump worshippers on here hating George Floyd or saying he OD’d without evidence, but defend the cunt committing treason.

          Neither deserved to die, but trying to pass a fake 20 isn’t the same as treason.

          1. No one on capitol grounds on January 6th committed treason, sarcasmic, you drunken legally illiterate sack of shit. This is why you ended up in jail so many times you stupid piece of shit. The law has specific meanings and not all of them align with your braindead imaginings.

            Also fentanyl Floyd’s autopsy is available for you to peruse. The ME concluded he died of overdose before hew as threatened with death if he didn’t change his conclusion. Come on, for old time’s sake give us a “HANDS UP DON’T SHOOT”.

            1. Argumentum Ad Hominem, Ignoratio Elenchi, Fallacy Fallacy

          2. Keep cranking that hysteria up to 11, no, you don’t look desperate.

            Floyd died from Covid, like all the other people that died and tested positive for it.

            1. Argumentum Ad Hominem, Ignoratio Elenchi

      3. Her shooting was completely justified and legal. It was massive restraint on the capital police that more of them did not get shot.

        1. true

        2. Fuck off shitbag!

          1. Argumentum Ad Hominem

        3. Really. Did her anonymous killer have reason to fear for his or anyone else’s life.

          What would you say the is the justification in this case for shooting to death an unarmed woman.

          I would find your answer interesting.

          1. Yes. She was breaching the last barrier between the rioters and members of Congress. They could have attacked or killed members of Congress.

            1. They could have played dodgeball or made tacos as well

            2. A. There were armed agents of the government on her side of the door that obviously did not view her as enough of a threat to shoot her.

              B. Considering none of the protesters by the doors were armed, there was practically zero chance of them killing a congresscritter.

            3. And shooting one unarmed protestor stopped that threat?

            4. Funny how people turn from whoopers for liberty into copsuckers when the King’s Men kill somebody whose politics they dislike.

            5. So why not gun them all down? Because there was no real threat.

          2. Incomplete Comparison

          3. She was told to stop, over an over, she didn’t stop. She was told if she continued she would be shot, she continued. Nobody else to blame but herself and the traitors who arranged this lazy coup.

        4. Illegal aliens are trespassing. You ok with LEOs popping each of them in the head with a 115 grain hollowpoint?

          1. They are here in violation of immigration regulations, not attacking the US Capital. If you do not know the difference you are a moron.

            1. Capitol

              1. Good job Gumby!

                1. Jealous of people who mastered basic elementary English grammar there sarc?

            2. I suppose you support the Portland police having a sniper squad that immediately eliminates anyone they see with a firebomb in there hand while rioting too, right?

            3. Go ahead and explain the difference, shreek. Which part of the United States code makes trespassing in the capitol building a death penalty offense but unlawful presence in the United States not?

              1. Ugg. We all know she was not shot because of the trespassing. She was shot because she was breaching the final barrier between the mob and members of Congress.

                1. “”She was shot because she was breaching the final barrier between the mob and members of Congress.”””

                  Why do members of Congress get special rights? Barriers were being breached in many places in 2020, officers were assaulted The left acted like it was a crime to shoot one of them.

                  1. The issue is not the breaching of the barrier – the issue is the threat to the congressmen. Had the crowd caught Pelosi what would have happened? Tea party?

                    1. Watching Pelosi shit her pants would be must-see TV.

            4. US Govt buildings have been attacked plenty in the past without the same consequences, As usual with lefty hypocrites, its about principals, not principles.

        5. Funny how people turn from whoopers for liberty into copsuckers when the King’s Men kill somebody whose politics they dislike.

    2. Not the same thing.

      She did something amazingly stupid and dangerous. Justified or not. She was not attacked while sleeping in her home by non uniformed police breaking into her house.

      1. She was not attacked while sleeping in her home by non uniformed police breaking into her house.

        Neither was Salaythis Melvin you mendacious fucking cunt.

  4. The Comply or Die Doctrine does not require cops to at least reasonably demonstrate Them’s legitimacy prior to execution. Disregard the Comply or Die Doctrine at your own risk.

  5. Rampant democides with each new murder by police worse than the last.

    A good samaritan, Johnny Hurley, with a gun killed an active shooter that had killed a cop. Cops thanked Johnny by murdering him.

    “Arvada police confirm officer killed ‘Good Samaritan’ in Olde Town shooting”


    Disarm the police!

    “If you do not want the State to act like a criminal, you must disarm it as you would a criminal; you must keep it weak. The State will always be criminal in proportion to its strength; a weak State will always be as criminal as it can be, or dare be, but if it is kept down to the proper limit of weakness – which, by the way, is a vast deal lower limit than people are led to believe – its criminality may be safely got on with.” ~ Albert J. Nock

  6. Recently reading about plain cloth cops sure makes me glad i wasn’t shot when i turned in a group of people for acting strangely and they turned out to be undercover.

  7. Plain clothes cops should be treated as combatants out of uniform in a war

    1. The Kleptocracy does call everything it does a “war.” I’ll never forget the day Poverty and Vietnam surrendered unconditionally. Church bells will again deafen hunchbacks on the glorious day Drugs, Money Laundering and Electricity are manacled and interrogated in bulletproof booths at Nuremberg.

      1. I’m particularly looking forward to the day Electricity is manacled in a bulletproof booth. But does it have to be in Nuremberg? Because some idiot keeps shooting the electricity here in my neighborhood, and then I lose power.

  8. “Will anyone be held accountable?”


    It’s like the editors think we’ve never read these stories before.

  9. Plaintiff has a point: plainclothes units can “be mistaken for criminals.” You wouldn’t want cowardly murderers mistaken for criminals. Thass fo shoor! I’ll probably remember those three perps next time I see sobbing headlines about some cop being ambushed and murdered by a criminal impersonator.

    1. When I read stories about suicidal idiots sneaking up on a cop and capping his ass, it’s always random.

      I can’t think of a case where it was people getting revenge on a bad cop.

      I’m also too lazy to look it up.

      1. Yes, you are lazy screetch.

        1. That was your most profound comment yet!

          ***scuze me while I genuflect in his general direction***

          1. Not nearly as profound as your daily comments where you cry about people criticizing your party.

  10. Not likely, and we were assured that even if qualified immunity were removed, while it would make it easier to sue the officer, no one would be held accountable.

    Unless by “held accountable” it’s meant that the plaintiffs were able to extract compensation directly from the officer. Which would be nice.

    1. He might be forced to give up a few shifts’ worth of the thousands of hours of paid time off he’s been accumulating, being that he’s never used a sick day in his life and has had overtime on every paycheck.

      1. That would be nice. I remember a story about a local cop who got into a tussle with some people at a local sportsball game, and his punishment was to be removed from the bomb squad. (My first thought was, shouldn’t we put the biggest fuckups ON the bombsquad– I’m here all week, try the fish).

        But we don’t need to eliminate qualified immunity for that, if departments were willing to do what pretty much most private sector employers do with fuckups: Fire them or demote them.

        1. Vice is where fuckups used to go. Now they’re School Resource Officers.

  11. You’ll get this and more if democrats stay in power. You know this.

    1. Uh no. The Ds are the ones trying to pass legislation to stop this and the Rs are the ones who block those bills.

      1. The Rs block the bills because the Ds are evil. Now if the exact same legislation is submitted by the Rs then it would be wonderful, and the Ds always opposed it because they’re evil.

        1. The R’s block the bills because the Democrats usually put some kind of non related poison pill in. It’s all a big song and dance so Democrats can pretend they aren’t the cop sucking sycophants of the thin blue line union and the Republicans can crow about stopping the Democrats from trying to enact some completely unrelated policy.

        2. The only major piece of criminal justice reform legislation passed in the last 30 years was proposed and passed by a Republican congress and signed into law by a Republican president. If you hadn’t spent the entirety of the Trump presidency blackout drunk between bouts of raping your daughter and reading Democratic Underground you might feel some sense of shame at your unbelievable idiocy.

          1. “”The only major piece of criminal justice reform legislation passed in the last 30 years was proposed and passed by a Republican congress and signed into law by a Republican president””

            The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 was not reform? It reduced the sentence disparity for crack from 100:1 to 18:1. That’s at least some reform albeit 1:1 would be better reform.

      2. Liar

        1. All bills introduced in the House or Senate are available online. It is all there go look them up yourself. It takes about 15s of Googling to find them.

          1. Should be super easy for you to link to them all then.

          2. Should be easy for you to locate the First Step Act then, shreek. That’s the only criminal justice reform legislation passed in the last 30 years. Passed by a Republican congress. Signed by a Republican president.

            1. Yes (but that was a minor bill) because the Rs have blocked all the other criminal justice bills.

              1. You know you are being played right?

      3. If only the Ds controlled more major legislatures, then it could get done!

        1. Until then, they have another opportunity to blame whiteness/white supremecy/ systemic racism.

      4. The Democrats almost invariably run the cities with the most egregious track records of police misconduct. But you would know that if you weren’t a shill.

        1. Aren’t sheriff’s departments run by county, not city?

          1. Yes, county sheriffs are controlled by counties. But most cities have their own city police. Many townships do as well. Some villages also do. In every example, it’s a different jurisdiction. You should read about that word: jurisdiction. It applies to all sorts of government functions in addition to law enforcement. Designate’s comment was about most examples of police misconduct, not this particular story.

            1. “not this particular story”

              Not the inconvenient story about the shooting deputy from Arkansas that ran yesterday, either, I gather.

              1. “Look, a squirrel!”

                1. not this particular squirrel

  12. We have drugs for this sort of thing. If we insist on hiring fearful, trigger happy cops, the least we could do is dose them with something like MDMA (ecstacy, molly) as their shift begins. It’s also called the ‘love drug’ to give you an idea of its effects.

  13. While Reason appropriately exposes and criticizes outrageous actions by police, this anti Trump media outlet has refused to expose or criticize the Capital Police Officer who murdered unarmed peaceful protester Ashli Babbitt on January 6.

    1. What did Trump do to expose and criticize this police officer? Nothing? Well, never mind.

      1. Perfect analogy since Trump is a supposedly libertarian opinion magazine concerned about police brutality just like Reason.

        Stick to your insane 9/11 Truther conspiracies.

        1. Trump was president at the time. He was in a position to do something about it. What did he do? Nothing? Well, never mind.

          1. She would be with us today if only she had worn her Q approved protective bison head gear.

        2. Trump is a supposedly libertarian opinion magazine?
          Here, all the time, I thought Trump was a living, breathing person!
          Silly me.

    2. She was breaching the final barrier protecting members of Congress. She was also part of a violent mob.

      1. Then why not gun all of them down?

        1. Because she was the only one that breached the ‘last’ barrier?
          The issue is perceived imminent threat.

  14. Betteridge’s Law of Headlines

  15. Skimming through the article but is the cop white and the perp black.
    Because if not then just move along no problem

  16. The victim was only a drug dealer receiving “protection” from the police, who unfortunately did not keep up payments to his protectors in amounts sufficient to satisfy them.
    Let this be a warning to all you other protected drug dealers …

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