An Ocoee police officer was not justified in shooting into a home in the middle of the night after a dispatcher sent him to the wrong address for a domestic disturbance in 2016, an Orange County jury ruled Thursday.
Officer Carlos Anglero was found guilty of shooting into a building, a second-degree felony. Jurors deliberated for about 2½ hours after a two-day trial, during which he testified in his own defense. He declined to comment about the verdict.
It was about 1 a.m. when Anglero was dispatched to a domestic disturbance call Feb. 6, 2016.
The dispatcher mistakenly entered the street name — Bent Grass Avenue — as “Bend Grass” and sent Anglero and three other officers to a home about half a mile away, on Belhaven Falls Drive. The house Anglero got to was dark, and nobody was waiting for him outside like the dispatcher said.
“I was in fear for my life,” he testified Thursday.
The Winter Garden police dispatcher told Anglero that a mother and daughter were arguing — the daughter wanted to leave the house on Bent Grass Avenue, and her mother told her she was too drunk to drive and wouldn’t give her the car keys. The daughter called police and said she would wait for officers in the driveway.
Anglero got to Belhaven Falls Drive and turned off his headlights as he neared the house, he said. He rang the doorbell and didn’t get an answer when two other officers and a trainee arrived, he said. Officer Stephanie Roberts rang the bell again and banged on the door.
Homeowner Christopher Lewis woke up after hearing the noise, he testified Wednesday. The retired electrical engineer’s wife and their son, who is now 14, were in the home, too. He did not know who the people outside his door were and did not hear an answer when he asked who was there. He got his Glock 19 handgun, which he had never fired before, and walked back toward the door with it down by his side.
Roberts shined her flashlight through the pane of glass in the front door. She and Anglero said they saw him, and Roberts realized he was holding a gun.
“Oh, [expletive], gun,” Roberts called, she said Thursday. She fired about two shots through the glass and retreated. Lewis said Wednesday that he could feel a bullet as it went past his left ear, and that he dove to the ground in the room next to the foyer and yelled for his wife to call 911.
Anglero said he did not realize Roberts had fired the shots and thought they might be coming from inside the house. He said he yelled “Ocoee police” — though Lewis said he never heard that — called for the others to take cover, and pointed a flashlight through the glass.
He saw Lewis “moving like a well-trained solider,” he said, and saw a black object in his hand.
“He dropped, the gun came up to his chest, and he started moving, going cover to cover, never staying too long in one place,” Anglero said.
The officer fired through the door four more times, he said Thursday.
Lewis said Wednesday that he did not point the gun at anyone, and that he had no idea that the people outside his house were police officers.
A police dispatcher called Lewis’ wife back and told her to have everyone come out of the house with their hands up. Officers handcuffed Lewis and his wife and searched the house, looking for the woman who called 911 half a mile away, Anglero said.
It took about 20 minutes for the dispatcher to radio them and say they were sent to the wrong place, he said.
Prosecutor Deborah Barra argued Anglero shot to protect Roberts, who is his girlfriend, and was not met with an actual threat.
“He does not get to decide whose life matters most … and create actual harm to the Lewis family,” she said.
Defense lawyer James W. Smith III urged jurors to consider what Anglero knew and didn’t know as he was on the other side of the door.
“This man thought he was going to a domestic disturbance,” he said. “Mr. Lewis was, in his mind, a person not identifying himself with a gun.”
Anglero is on unpaid administrative leave from the department. Judge Kim Shepard scheduled his sentencing for March 27 at 10 a.m. and allowed him to go free until then.