Florida cop killed an unarmed man with a shot to the face -- now he might be forced to pay up
Police officer aims gun at night in the dark (Shutterstock)

The family of an unarmed suspect who was shot in the face by a Volusia County, Florida deputy will present its case for punitive financial damages to the Volusia County Council on April 21, according to the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Derek Cruice, a 26-year old Caucasian man, was killed in the early morning hours on March 4, 2015. Deputy Todd Raible shot Cruice upon entering his house because Cruice’s hands were together, as if he were holding a gun. A search of the house revealed no evidence of firearms on the premises.

Deputies were tipped off anonymously that there were drugs in the house. After Cruice was killed, a search turned up $3,000 in cash, a half pound of marijuana, a scale, and a drug ledger. Conflicting accounts of what happened that morning were heard by a grand jury in testimony that lasted  two days, but the jury declined to indict Raible on charges of “manslaughter by culpable negligence.” Charges of murder were never considered because the case didn’t fit within the definition of the law, State Attorney R.J. Larizza said.

Now, Cruice’s family is suing Volusia County, which includes the city of Daytona Beach, for violating Cruice’s constitutional rights. The Volusia County Council will hear the details of the lawsuit on Thursday.

According to Raible, who was taking point on the drug raid, he knocked on the door several times, announcing that deputies had a warrant. When no one opened the door, Raible kicked it in. Cruice had been right by the door, looking through the peephole. Cruice stepped out of the way of the door, and then, according to Raible, Cruice moved “aggressive, fast, and determined” toward him while extending his left hand. Believing that Cruice was armed, Raible shot him in the face, and the bullet severed a major artery and entered Cruice’s C-2 vertebra.

Samantha Sterret, Cruice’s longtime girlfriend, disputes Raible’s narrative. She says that Cruice, who was only wearing boxers and a pair of shorts, was nearly knocked over by the door being kicked down, and then, before Cruice could surrender, Raible fired. She says that Raible did not order Cruice to raise his hands or lower his weapon, but shot him without warning. Raible admits that he doesn’t remember whether he said the warning words, but he says that he had served so many warrants in his life that the words would have been automatic.

Other deputies on the scene insisted that Raible did order Cruice to put his hands up. Raible said he only had three-to-five seconds to make a decision. After determining that he had shot an unarmed man, Raible fell to his knees in the front yard, and said, “No one is going to understand, and they are going to take away my sons, and they are going to take me to jail.”

“It hurts,” said Cruice’s mother, Sheila Cruice, when the grand jury failed to indict Raible. “It shouldn’t have happened the way that it did. In my heart, it shouldn’t have happened. I just want it to be made right.”

Cruice’s family is seeking $500,000 for the violation of Cruice’s constitutional rights. County Council members have declined to comment on the claim.