BRADENTON -- Protesters rallied on a busy intersection in Bradenton Saturday afternoon in support of the Ferguson, Mo., demonstrations and what they say is police brutality in Manatee and Sarasota counties.
Among the nearly 20 protestors were the mothers of Elias Guadarrama and Rodney Mitchell.
Guadarrama died after a foot pursuit with deputies in January in which he shot multiple shots at them, and ultimately resulted in him turning the gun on himself, according to the Manatee Sheriff's Office.
Omega Velez, Guadarrama's mother, said she does not believe the sheriff's office reports and insists her son was shot and killed by deputies.
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Rodney Mitchell was shot and killed in 2012 by a deputy in the Newtown neighborhood in Sarasota during a traffic stop that quickly escalated when Mitchell accelerated his jeep toward deputies, according to the SarasotaSheriff's Office.
At the time of the stop, Mitchell was driving with a suspended license as a result of a DUI. Mitchell had already been stopped for driving with a suspended license.
Natasha Clemons, Mitchell's mother, said she feels deputies had no reason to shoot him.
The Manatee Sheriff's Office said that the case into the shooting of Guadarrama was an open-and-shut case, according to spokesman Dave Bristow. Their reports coincide with their ruling that Guadarrama shot himself.
Some drivers on U.S. 41 did honk as they passed the protestors chanting, "Hands up; don't shoot", "No justice, no peace" and "Being brown is not a crime."
Velez said she does not believe her son was capable of suicide and wants answers as to how the sheriff's office can call it that, she said. Her son was going to college and had plans to be a doctor, she added.
"I think they are covering up something," Velez said.
Velez said she has also started a foundation in her son's memory and is raising money to continue her investigation. She is also hoping witnesses come forward.
Velez had originally hired defense attorney Mark Lipinski to help prove her case, but they parted ways when she did not like the options he gave her following some investigation.
Lipinski would not comment on the results of his investigation or the case in general, other than to express his sympathy.
"It's terrible what happened to her son," Lipinski said. "I hope she finds peace in the world."
Now Velez is pursuing her case alongside Clemons and attorney Sanastine Fortin of Fort Meyers, they said.
"It's all about what's right," Clemons said. "You can't say you're sorry and bring him back."
The mother still wants answers as to why her son was shot and killed, she said.
Two years later, she still misses him and recalls him as someone who would never hurt anybody.
"His smile, his smile is what keeps me going," Clemons said.
While the rally remained peaceful, a Manatee Sheriff's Office deputy parked facing the intersection as a precaution. The rally was organized by ANSWER Coalition Suncoast.
"We won't tolerate it anymore," Bryan Ellis, coordinator for ANSWER Suncoast said. "People do to you what you tolerate."
Through education he also hopes to begin a conversation about race, he said.
Guadarrama had an arrest history that included several drug-related charges and his most recent arrest was Feb. 16, 2013, on a charge of violating probation, according to the sheriff's website.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.