TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The case involving a Seffner man who is accused of illegally detaining a Black teenager on his way to basketball practice was in court Wednesday.
Luis Santos, 54, entered a written plea of not guilty for the arraignment.
“Where you live,” he said on cell phone video, which he recorded from the June incident in Seffner.
It was early in the morning as the unidentified teen biked to practice. Santos stopped the student-athlete and grilled him.
Then, according to a 911 recording, Santos accused the teen of committing crimes in the neighborhood. Deputies said there were none reported around the time or even weeks before.
“This defendant confronted an innocent teen on the street, with no authority to do so, and held him there against his will on the basis of racial profiling,” said Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren.
Since the story came to light in late July, people have commended Warren’s office for bringing the charge against Santos, he said.
It has also garnered national attention.
“We’re appreciative that this community is rallying around the idea that we are not going to tolerate injustice and intolerance,” the state attorney said in a Zoom interview with 8 On Your Side.
When reached by phone Wednesday, Santos’ attorney declined to comment. She said her client is not available for an on-camera interview regarding his arrest but may be after the case is resolved.
If convicted on the false imprisonment charge, Santos could spend up to five years in state prison.
“We commend the young man for handling this situation in the way he did,” Warren said. “The short of it: no one should ever be put in the situation where they have to justify what they’re doing or where they are based on the color of their skin.”
The teenager has requested to remain anonymous. His attorney said his focus is on attending college in the fall.
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