According to testimony by a passenger, a deputy shot at a vehicle after the suspect stopped following a high-speed chase. Charlie Torres was shot and killed during the incident. The passenger, Jessica Annette Cuevas, said Charlie Torres had stopped his SUV and that the passenger had opened her door to exit the vehicle when the first shot was fired following a chase, which ended in Immokalee field.
Cuevas also testified, “I remember taking off my seatbelt, and I told him [the deputy] I was going to get out of the car. The testimony was offered in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by Cuevas mother against Collier Sheriff Kevin Rambosk and Cpl. Brian M. Cohen. “I opened the door a little bit. I immediately felt the glass particles in my face” from the window being shot out, said Cuevas. Cuevas testified that at no point did it appear that Torres was going to hit the police cruiser or the officers. She also said on the witness stand that the fastest that Torres was driving after stopping and before being shot was 5-6 mph. Cuevas also denied that she and Torres had been intoxicated or using drugs that night as had been suggested by the defense in the case.
Cuevas testimony directly contradicts Cohen’s account of the events. Cuevas has maintained he was forced to fire at the vehicle to defend himself as the vehicle came at him. Four of his 13 shots hit Torres. Cohen was previously cleared of any wrongdoing in the incident by investigators following the incident. Cohen, who was a 3-year veteran at the time, told investigators he heard the SUV’s engine roar as the vehicle came at him as he stood outside his vehicle. Cohen said that he feared for his life as he fired into the vehicle after the driver ignored his commands to stop. Cohen says he fired until the vehicle finally came to a stop.
The report that exonerated Cohen indicated independent evidence corroborated Cohen’s account of the events. Several bullet holes in the SUV were head-on through the windshield and other bullets went front to back through the driver’s side door.
Cuevas testified Torres was making a slow U-turn back to the street but was not headed toward the deputy. Criminal defense attorney John Musca said, “Sheriff’s deputies sometime have to make difficult decisions under extreme stress. The perception of events can lead to radically different accounts of what actually happened. This appears to be one of those cases.”