Tonight there’s a decision on whether to charge a former state corrections officer who shot and killed a man outside of a bar. Was it murder, manslaughter, or self defense? Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero broke the story and is back On the Case.
WSVN — On November 26th 2011, police were called to Our Place Lounge in Northwest Miami-Dade. In the alley behind the bar, police found a semi-automatic handgun and two bullet casings.
911 caller: “The guy got shot right in his chest.”
Twenty-six-year-old Victor Grullon was shot and later died in the hospital.
Mario Morante, 911 call: “Officer down! Officer down!”
The officer calling for help was Mario Morante. He was off-duty from the Florida Department of Corrections and had just shot Grullon.
Mario Morante, 911call: “I just shot somebody, he tried to kill me.”
Operator: “He tried to kill you?”
Mario Morante: “Yes.”
Morante says he fired his gun twice. The second time he accidentally shot himself in the leg.
Mario Morante, 911 call: “Ah…Ah…My leg. Oh, [bleep]”
Morante was never arrested, which is agonizing for Grullon’s mother.
Ana Grullon: “He was my only son, my best friend, my life.”
During an interview with 7News back in 2012, she was frustrated about not knowing what happened to her son.
Ana Grullon: “Praying every night for him to tell me pieces of the puzzle.”
Carmel Cafiero: “And it is a puzzle for you at this point?”
Ana Grullon: “Yes, cause I don’t know nothing. I’m in the dark.”
It’s been two and a half years since Victor Grullon died. Now, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office has determined no charges will be filed. That this is a case of ‘stand your ground.’
Authorities say Morante and Grullon argued inside the bar. Morante told investigators he quickly left the bar but fell and sprained his ankle outside so he hid in the alley. Then an SUV approached him and Grullon got out.
Mario Morante: “He clocks me, I go towards my right. He starts ground and pounding me, bom, bom, bom, bom. Just beating the [bleep] out of me, so I’m blocking every shot he’s taking at me, you know?”
Morante is now being sued by Grullon’s family. During a deposition in that case Morante said Grullon grabbed his throat.
Mario Morante: “I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t talk, I couldn’t think, I was panicking. He’s on top of me, so I pulled the gun out, and I shoot center-mass.”
The State Attorney’s Office concluded, Grullon was the aggressor and Morante, “had a right under the law to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.”
Ed Griffith, Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office: “The Florida legislature has granted individuals a great deal of latitude in the use of deadly force, and this is, unfortunately for the family involved, this is one of those cases.”
Morante’s attorney told 7News his client was extremely relieved with the State’s decision, adding, “he wishes the Grullon family to know how sorry he is, no matter how unintended, for the loss of their family member.”
But, Ana Grullon is not ready to forgive or accept the State’s decision.
Ana Grullon: “I don’t believe anything that he has to say, I don’t have no sympathy for him. He took the life of my son.”
Ana says there are inconsistencies in Morante’s version of events and she is not giving up the fight to see Morante charged.
Ana Grullon: “I believe that this case needs to be reviewed, I want to ask for a special prosecutor, because from the beginning, this was a conflict of interest. Why? Because he was a state correctional officer.”
Not anymore. Morante resigned and has since moved to Texas