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Family of man gunned down speaks out against police brutality at city meeting

 Diana Colorado
Lilly Hernandez
90.7 WMFE News
Diana Colorado, the cousin of Derek Diaz, speaks out about Diaz's death by Orlando Police Officer Jose Velez, Monday at a City Council meeting at Orlando City Hall.

Family and friends of Derek Diaz, who was shot and killed by Orlando Police earlier this month, are raising concerns about how OPD trains its officers. The family along with community activists spoke at an Orlando City Council meeting Monday afternoon.

“We're not against police. We're just trying to have the right actions necessary if a policeman shouldn't be on the grounds if maybe he's too scared. I don't know. Just make better training. Maybe (the officer) shouldn't be on the streets," said Diana Colorado, Diaz's cousin.

On July 3, three officers approached 26-year-old Diaz while he was illegally parked on Orange Avenue and Jefferson Street earlier. One of the officers, Jose Velez, approached Diaz aggressively and told Diaz to keep his hands on the steering wheel. Diaz moved a hand to the center council and tossed an object out the driver's side door. Velez fired his weapon at Diaz, killing him. Colorado said the item Diaz threw was later revealed to be a sandwich.

On Monday, family members questioned Mayor Buddy Dyer and City Commissioners about why de-escalation training wasn’t effective in this situation and why Diaz was approached with hostility. Others raised concerns about Officer Velez and pointed to other aggressive policing situations he was reportedly associated with.

The way he said it was like he felt good to do what he did to my son

Sanja Nava is the mother of Diaz’s 5-year-old daughter. She told the council the officers on site treated Diaz without concern.

“He was being yelled at and asked multiple commands. These officers were trained to communicate properly with all different kinds of personalities and had to deal with all different kinds of mental states people may be in,” she said. "(Diaz) was treated like a cold-blooded murderer upon first approaching him, and now he's dead. We need to know if every action they took in that one minute before (Diaz) lost his life was within their lines of proper police protocol."

Diaz's mother, Yaneri Diaz, was also present at the meeting. Through tears and a shaken voice, Yaneri explained her confusion upon watching bodycam footage and Velez's actions as well as why de-escalation training wasn't used to spare her son.

"I heard (Velez) say 'I did it.' The way he said it was like he felt good to do what he did to my son," Yaneri said. "I just want there to be more training and use a Taser instead of using a gun."

Mayor Dyer spoke directly to the family offering them condolences. A friend associated with the family said that was the first apology the family had received from an Orlando official. Last week during a press conference OPD Chief Eric Smith offered his condolences to the family through a tweet, but the family was unaware of the message until a reporter addressed the issue during a press conference.

The family is calling for Velez to be held responsible for Diaz’s death. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is currently investigating the incident — the standard protocol for any officer shooting.

Originally from South Florida, Joe Mario came to Orlando to attend the University of Central Florida where he graduated with degrees in Radio & Television Production, Film, and Psychology. He worked several beats and covered multimedia at The Villages Daily Sun but returned to the City Beautiful as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel where he covered crime, hurricanes, and viral news. Joe Mario has too many interests and not enough time but tries to focus on his love for strange stories in comic books and horror movies. When he's not writing he loves to run in his spare time.
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