ORLANDO, Fla. — On Monday, Gov. Ron Desantis spoke publicly for the first time about the trio of Pine Hills shootings on Feb. 22, that left three dead and two seriously injured.

During his speech, he called out State Attorney Monique Worrell. 

“You have to hold people accountable. This idea, and I know the district attorney … (the) state attorney in Orlando, thinks that you don’t prosecute people, and that is the way that somehow you have a better community," he said. "That does not work."

“You have these people when they had multiple arrests, have multiple times they could be held accountable," DeSantis continued. "And you keep cycling them out to the community ... you are increasing the chances that something bad will happen. This was obviously horrific beyond belief, that it would happen."

What You Need To Know

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has criticized the prosecutorial record of State Attorney Monique Worrell in the wake of three shootings in Pine Hills on Feb. 22, that left three people dead and two others injured

  • Worrell says her office does prosecute cases, and noted that 3,000 cases have been pursued since January

  • Charges against Pine Hills shooting suspect Keith Moses, 19, were dropped after a November 2021 marijuana possession arrest, and Worrell said it was because she legally couldn't prosecute the case

  • She says that while Keith Moses didn't "fall through the cracks" that doesn't mean others didn't, and the best way to address the issue is additional funding

Now, she is firing back.

“Any implication that my office does not prosecute cases is not based in fact," Worrell said. "Since January, we have prosecuted close to 3,000 cases, and that is since January of this year. Thirty-five jury trials have taken place — several of those have resulted in life sentences — so not only do we prosecute cases, we take violent crime very seriously."

She also shared insight into the criminal history of Keith Moses, the man accused of pulling the trigger in the Pine Hills homicides. Specifically, she pointed to his only arrest as an adult, which happened in November of 2021.

During that incident, Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputies patrolling Pine Hills reportedly stopped a car with three men. Court records show that Moses was one of them.

As deputies stopped the car, they reported seeing someone throw a gun out the window. That gun was later recovered by deputies, an arrest affidavit in the case said.

Deputies said they allegedly found 4.6 grams of cannabis on Moses, who was arrested and charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Worrell said her office ultimately never prosecuted the case.

“So, one, we could not legally prosecute this case, and my office follows the law," she said. "Four-point-six grams of marijuana is not an amount of marijuana that can be tested by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. 

“In order for us to prove possession of marijuana we would have had to have testing of the substance that was alleged to be marijuana that we could present to a jury that this it was, in fact, marijuana, because the Florida Department of Law Enforcement does not test amounts under 20 grams," she continued. "We could not meet our burden of proving that case beyond a reasonable doubt therefore, the case was not suitable for prosecution.”

While Worrell said the marijuana possession case was not suitable for prosecution, the question of the gun thrown from the car remains.  

One deputy wrote in the affidavit: “I will be authoring DNA warrants for all three subjects to compare against the recovered firearm and any other articles that could contain his DNA.” 

But Worrell said information about the gun was never forwarded from law enforcement to her office, so prosecution was not possible.

“I can tell you that my office did not receive any charges from the sheriff as to any of the individuals in this case being in possession of a gun," she said. "Now I know in that report it says that there would be testing that would be conducted."

The Spectrum News Watchdog team tracked the gun thrown from the car, which was reported stolen in Orlando.

Spectrum News asked the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for more details about that gun and where it was stolen.

Orange County Sheriff John Mina said that because there were ski masks, a gun, and drugs found during the marijuana arrest, coupled with Moses' significant juvenile arrest history, he would have preferred that Worrell's office move forward with a prosecution.

Addressing DeSantis' criticism directly, Worrell said her office followed the law in Moses' marijuana possession case.

“Keith Moses did not fall through the cracks — there is nothing in Keith Moses’s history that would have alerted anyone that he could be capable of committing a crime of the magnitude that he did," she said. "So Keith Moses did not fall through the cracks, but I’ll tell you this, that doesn’t mean that others do not and when you have prosecutors who are doing the work of two, things will fall through the cracks. So if the governor wants to help public safety in the Ninth Judicial Circuit, he needs to fund prosecutors across the state."