The man shot and killed by a sheriff’s office deputy in Immokalee last week was a single father and longtime farm worker in the community, according to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.
Nicholas Morales-Bessannia, 37, lived a few houses from where the shooting occurred and had a 13-year-old son. He was shot and killed by a deputy around 1:15 a.m. Thursday outside a home in the Farm Workers Village neighborhood.
Collier County Sheriff’s Office deputies had been dispatched to the location after a woman called 911 because a man was outside her home with a shovel trying to get inside, according to audio of a 911 call released by the sheriff’s office.
An investigation found that in addition to the shovel, Morales-Bessannia produced "a sharp-edge weapon as he charged toward deputies” and failed to comply when they ordered him to the ground, according to the sheriff’s office.
Previous coverage: Collier County Sheriff's Office: Deputy shoots, kills Immokalee man who was holding a shovel
More: 911 call audio: Woman says man killed by Collier deputy tried to enter her Immokalee home
The sharp-edge weapon was a pair of shears used in landscaping, said sheriff’s office spokesperson Karie Partington on Monday.
The deputy who shot Morales-Bessannia has been placed on paid administrative leave while criminal and administrative investigations are conducted, according to the sheriff’s office.
Community members in Immokalee gathered Friday evening near where Morales-Bessannia was shot for a vigil.
The Coalition of Immokalee Workers released a statement after the vigil questioning why Morales-Bessannia was shot.
“Even based solely on the version of events provided by the sheriff’s office — Nicholas was alone and is no longer with us, and so cannot provide his own recounting of events — we see no conceivable justification for his killing,” the statement from the coalition reads. “According to the recording of the 911 call released by the sheriff’s office, a deputy fatally shot Nicholas mere seconds after arriving on the scene.”
The statement from the coalition questions why a deputy would “take mere seconds” after arriving on scene to analyze a situation and determine that Morales-Bessannia was threatening enough that he had to be shot.
The coalition is calling for the sheriff’s office to produce a complete account of what occurred between the arrival of deputies and the shooting of Morales-Bessannia.
“We, the Immokalee community, must know exactly what the deputies said, and what they did,” the coalition’s statement reads. “We call on the sheriff’s office to release any video footage or audio recordings of the event immediately, and to reveal the identity of the officers involved without further delay.”
Sheriff’s office deputies do not wear body cameras as the department is in the process of evaluating body camera options, Partington said.
A request for any dash camera footage of the shooting was denied because it is part of an active investigation, Partington said.
“We must have a full investigation and justice for Nicholas and his family, as well as for the broader Immokalee community as a whole,” the statement from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers reads. “And so that justice may be done, we demand to know the truth.”
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