It started with two women suspected of stealing from a Marshall’s clothing store in Orlando, Florida. It ended in a botched getaway and police shooting and killing the alleged thieves’ driver.
Jocelyn Villot, 32, and Brittany Chandler, 26, had initially faced murder charges after the robbery because it led to the death of their getaway driver, 32-year-old Juan Alberto Silva, according to an arrest report obtained by Oxygen.com. Orange County prosecutors decided last week not to press the murder charges because the pair did not encourage anyone to commit a violent act, an assistant state attorney told the Orlando Sentinel. The two women are still charged with grand theft and resisting arrest.
Florida state police are also investigating the police shooting and will hand their report to state prosecutors. They will ultimately decide whether to charge the Orlando officers for shooting the driver, who appeared to be attempting to flee the scene.
The confrontation began May 7 when a Marshall’s security worker in Orlando reported seeing the two women leave the store with items they hadn’t paid for. The security worker then called police who caught up with Villot and Chandler in a gold van in the parking lot. Silva was in the driver’s seat.
Cell phone video obtained by WKMG-TV in Orlando shows that two officers, one standing on either side of the vehicle, attempted to detain and question the passengers. The officer on the driver’s side aimed his weapon inside the vehicle.
In a fatal decision, Silva tried to drive away from the officers. They immediately unleashed a barrage of gunfire inside the vehicle. The Orlando Police Department has a policy against firing inside vehicles, according to the Orlando Sentinel, but police chief John Mina indicated he believed the shooting was warranted, saying the officers feared for their lives.
The arrest report said Silva "accelerated towards the patrol officer on the driver’s side." The cell phone video appears to show the vehicle making a left turn out of the parking space, but the officer on the driver's side is next to the van and not in front of it.
Firing inside a vehicle is “extremely unlikely” to slow a vehicle, according to the police department’s policy, and "may cause the vehicle to crash and injure other members or innocent citizens."
One of the officer’s body cameras stopped working right before the shooting, according to WKGM-TV.
Villot, who appeared in a bond hearing Thursday, had been living in precarious circumstances, she said. She lived half the time with a friend and the other half in Silva's van.
[Photo: Orange County Incarcerations]