ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando Police Chief Eric Smith told reporters on Monday that his two Orlando officers who were shot Friday night while conducting a traffic stop near downtown are "doing a little bit better" each day. He also thanked the community for all the well-wishes, cards, and prayers of support for his officers.
Chief Smith said he had viewed some of the bodycam footage from Friday night's shooting and described it as "horrifying." That video has not yet been publicly released.
"That's the one thing that keeps me up as the police chief at night is worrying about my officers and hoping none of them get hurt," he said.
On Friday night, two Orlando police officers attempted to pull over a vehicle in downtown Orlando, near Garland and Washington, allegedly linked to a homicide investigation out of Miami-Dade County when both officers were shot.
The suspect, later identified as 28-year-old Daton Veil, then carjacked another person and drove off, police said. Veil was found Saturday morning at the Holiday Inn on Caravan Court, not far from Universal Orlando, where he barricaded himself inside a hotel room and refused to come out, police said.
Hours later, police said Veil shot towards SWAT officers "multiple times" and that those officers returned fire. Veil was shot and killed.
‘An extensive and violent criminal history’
At a recent press conference, Chief Smith said Viel had an "extensive and violent criminal history."
FOX 35 found that Viel had been arrested on a number of alleged charges, including sexual battery, lewd or lascivious molestation, burglary, assault, robbery, and stalking, among others, stemming over years.
The Florida Department of Corrections website shows that Viel was listed as a fugitive for violating his probation.
According to the State Attorney's Office, Viel was arrested in December 2019 for trespassing on a construction site. He failed to appear to a court appearance in 2020, was re-arrested in 2022, and given 18 months probation.
In March 2023, Viel was arrested on two counts of sexual battery and lewd or lascivious molestation. According to court records, Viel drove up to a 14-year-old girl who was walking to school and offered to give her a ride in December 2022. He drove her to school, said he wanted to spend more time with her, and then drove to Trotters Park, where he sexually assaulted and raped her, court documents reveal.
A DNA kit came back positive for Viel and the girl was able to successfully identify him in a photo lineup, according to court records. A judged granted him a $125,000 bond, which he posted and was released with an ankle monitor.
Authorities said Viel cut that ankle monitor off.
On June 30, while out on bond, Viel and his red vehicle were spotted on UCF's campus, where he ran from police and managed to get back in his vehicle and drive off. You can watch clips from released bodycam videos from that interaction in the player above.
The shooting downtown involving the officers happened on August 4.
Why was he allowed to be released on bond?
It's a question many have asked since the shooing and details of Viel's alleged criminal history have been revealed: How and why was Viel allowed to be released on bond, despite violating his parole?
"It bother's me," Orlando Police Chief Eric Smith told reporters.
State Attorney Monique Worrell held a press conference on Monday to address Viel's alleged criminal history, the criminal justice system process, and the difference between the court's role and the State Attorney's role in that process, she said.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the two officers, their families and the entire Orlando Police Department at this time," she said.
"It is not lost upon me the difficulty of the job that law enforcement engages in every day when they go out to protect and serve our communities. It is a dangerous job and one that we do not take lightly."
During her press conference, Worrell essentially said it was up to police to arrest suspects with active warrants, and it's up to the judges and court system to determine bond – both of which are outside of her office, she said. She defended the court's $125,000 bond describing it as a high bond that possibly took into consideration his other interactions with the court.
"I've said many times before, it's really important to understand that when incidents like this happen, community wants answers, and it is natural to want to find out who's at fault for why this incident took place. But it is important to understand that the only individual who can be blamed for incidents like these is the individual who took those actions," she said.
A Go Fund Me account has been set up for the Orlando police officers who continue to receive care at Orlando Health.