Filmmaker Tyler Perry is supporting a lawsuit against a Florida sheriff’s deputy who’s now accused of murdering a black man nearly fifteen years ago.
Perry announced the lawsuit along with Marcia Williams and her attorney, Benjamin Crump. The litigation is targeting former Collier County deputy Steven Calkins.
Williams says Calkins murdered her 27-year old son Terrance after detaining him in January 2004. Calkins, writes the Chicago Sun-Times, was also the last person seen with Felipe Santos, an undocumented immigrant who went missing the year before.
The suit’s intent, says Williams, is to get answers for her son’s four surviving children.
“I am not going to let it go until I get the answers I deserve,” Williams said at a press conference, thanking Perry for his support and the effort he’s made to draw attention to the case.
Perry, reports the Sun-Times, offered a $100,000 reward for information on Santos and William’s disappearance. With no new leads forthcoming, the filmmaker recently doubled the amount to $200,000 on Tuesday.
“We have got to come together to fight injustice, to fight what is wrong,” said Perry.
While the director and producer is best known for ‘his African-American family comedies and his character “Madea,’” Perry says the cold case should disturb anyone regardless of race.
Calkins, a white man, encountered Williams and Terrance under similar circumstances.
When Calkins encountered Santos in 2003, the man had just been involved in a minor fender-bender. Calkins took him into custody after the immigrant and construction worker was unable to produce a driver’s license or vehicle registration.
Three months later, writes the Sun-Times¸ Williams’ car broke down. He parked in a cemetery lot, having just moved to the area from Tennessee. Williams was trying to move closer to his mother and was facing jail time for failing to pay child support.
On patrol, Calkins came across Williams and requested identification. The same as with Santos, the deputy took Williams into custody. He said the 27-year old didn’t have a driver’s license, and described the black man’s car as a “homie Cadillac.”
The sheriff’s office opened an investigation into both deaths but never raised charges against Calkins. They said the deputy had initially been cooperative but stopped after failing a polygraph examination.
Calkins lost his job, but the investigation went cold after law enforcement couldn’t find traces of any struggle in the deputy’s patrol car.
For the suit to succeed, the Chicago Sun-Times says that Crump would have to demonstrate, in court, that it’s more likely than not that Calkins killed Williams.
Crump didn’t condemn or criticize Collier investigators, saying they did what they thought they could do to get justice for the two missing men.
“Terrance Williams is going to be the beacon of hope for what people can do,” said Crump.