Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin announced during a Tuesday press conference that the South Whitehall Township police officer involved in the shooting death of 44-year-old Joseph “Joey” Santos has been charged with voluntary manslaughter. The officer was identified as Jonathan R. Roselle, 33.
“In this case, there is no evidence that Mr. Santos was armed with any weapon and no evidence that he committed or attempted a felony,” Martin said during the press conference. “I have concluded that he did not have to discharge his weapon.”
Santos was killed on July 28 after leaving Dorney Park in Allentown, PA. He is a native of New Jersey and had been to Dorney Park with his girlfriend before leaving to get a cigarette. At approximately 5:44 pm, police responded to a call of a man walking in traffic and causing disturbances in a major street near the park. An eyewitness video of the shooting shows Santos walking on the street and being shot five times with his hands up. He was pronounced dead at Cedar Crest Hospital. The coroner ruled the death a homicide.
Martin said during the press conference that the investigation doesn’t show any signs that the shooting was racially motivated or an example of police brutality.
“To those who believe or contend that the death of Mr. Santos was either the result of police brutality or that racism was involved, the investigation has disclosed no facts which would support such claims,” he said.
For the family of Santos and local organizers, they believe discrimination did play a role. In a press release shared on Tuesday, Make the Road PA director Adanjesús Marín said, “We know that this case is not the exception but rather another of so many indicators that the entire system is stacked against People of Color and poor people.”
During an interview with Latino Rebels, Maegan Llerena Muñoz, a Make the Road PA organizer, believed that the Santos shooting was a case of racial profiling.
“Because we are underrepresented, the first thought isn’t to treat people with respect but how can we keep protecting our people and their people are white people, and the ones under attack are people of color,” Llerena Muñoz said. “We want people who can see us and not criminalize us and just see us as normal human beings, and that’s so hard. What happened to Joey is so important because it shows that it can happen to any one of us, I could be walking down the street and someone could kill me.”
Shortly after Martin’s announcement, Make the Road PA held a separate press conference with Santos’ family.
“My little girl doesn’t have her father. That officer took him from us. We will be here as long as it takes until we see Justice for Joey.” Arlene, #JoeySantos’ wife of 18 years#Justice4Santos pic.twitter.com/VHNxZbsvlu
— Make the Road PA (@MakeTheRoadPa) August 7, 2018
Martin said that bodycam videos will not be shown to media yet, however media will be able to see them as the case goes through court. During the press conference, it wasn’t clear if Roselle had been fired. He surrendered to the authorities on Tuesday, according to Martin.
Here is the full video of Martin’s Tuesday press conference:
This is the press release Martin’s office shared about the charges:
Amanda Alcantara is the Digital Media Editor at Futuro Media. She tweets from @YoSoy_Amanda.