Three influential black leaders — filmmaker Tyler Perry, the Rev. Al Sharpton and NAACP President Ben Jealous — are pushing for further investigation into a decade-old case of two Florida men who disappeared after separate encounters with a now-fired sheriff’s deputy.
The three men will hold a 10:30 a.m. news conference on Thursday at Collier County’s South Regional Library in East Naples, where they will discuss the next steps for the missing person investigations of Terrance Williams and Felipe Santos.
Santos, then 23, and Williams, then 27, disappeared three months apart in the Naples area in 2003 after crossing paths with Collier County Sheriff Deputy Steven Calkins. He was never charged, but was fired the next year.
“Cases such as these highlight a growing concern about the lack of media coverage when it comes to missing person cases involving people of color,” a statement publicizing the event said, according to the Naples Daily News.
Blacks made up about 13 percent of the U.S. population, yet they accounted for 33 percent of missing persons cases in 2011, according to FBI data cited by the newspaper.
Perry and Sharpton appeared together in February on MSNBC regarding the North Naples cases after the popular filmmaker saw a television show featuring Williams.
“They were put into the back of Deputy Calkins’ car and never heard from again,” Perry wrote on his personal blog in April. “And to this day Deputy Steve Calkins is a free man. I guess it’s time to march in Naples now.”
Marcia Williams, Terrance Williams’ mother, told the newspaper on Tuesday that she’s withholding comment until the press conference.
Santos, according to the Naples Daily News, disappeared in October 2003 after he was arrested for driving without a license. In a department memo, Calkins indicated he didn’t take Santos to jail, but rather dropped him off at a local supermarket.
Three months later, Williams disappeared after encountering Calkins. Witnesses and reports said Williams was having car troubles when Calkins spotted him near Naples Memorial Gardens, a cemetery in North Naples. Calkins said at the time he took Williams to a nearby supermarket and never saw him again.
Calkins, a 17-year veteran, was later fired from the sheriff’s office in August 2004 after giving inconsistent accounts of his encounter with Williams. He’s been deemed a person of interest in the case, the Naples Daily News reports.