In Miami-Dade, prosecutors review every police shooting to see if an officer broke state law in firing a weapon. In Florida, on-duty officers are generally given wide leeway in using deadly force to protect themselves or others — and prosecutors statewide, including here, virtually never charge cops for manslaughter or murder.
Police critics bemoaned the lack of information on the shootings released by Exposito, who deferred to prosecutors. He later feuded with Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle over long delays in ruling on police shootings.
Currently, the state attorney’s office is still reviewing 76 nonfatal and fatal police shootings from all local Miami-Dade law enforcement agencies, including last month’s killing of a man eating the face of a homeless man on the MacArthur Causeway.
Of the seven controversial Miami police shootings under Exposito, five have now been closed. The second-most controversial: the death of unarmed motorist DeCarlos Moore in Overtown in July 2010. An officer mistook a foil-wrapped stash of drugs for a weapon during a traffic stop.
In McNeil’s case, he and his cousin had just left the Take One strip club on the night of Feb. 10, 2011. A bouncer told police he escorted them out because his cousin, Williams, was “touching the dancers.” Williams denied the men were drunk.
Outside, federal agents and police officers were watching the notorious night spot as part of a task force dubbed “Southern Tempest.” One officer alerted colleagues of the “intoxicated” men, who drove off and were driving “erratically,” the close-out report said.
Three unmarked undercover vehicles, lights flashing, pursued McNeil’s Kia Sorrento. An SUV driven by federal agent Timothy Scott overtook the car and stopped abruptly, boxing in the two men, according to the memo. Goyos jumped out of the SUV, gun drawn, and approached the driver’s door. Other officers heard Goyos identify himself and yell “show me your hands” and “don’t do it” before firing three rounds, the memo said.
“Agent Scott estimated the passage of approximately one-and-a-half to two seconds between Detective Goyos’ commands and the gunshots,” the report noted.
The fatal shot punctured McNeil’s left upper back. From the angle of the bullet, the Miami-Dade medical examiner’s office concluded McNeil was likely reaching to the floorboard where the cellphones had fallen.
Prosecutors noted that McNeil’s only potential criminal conduct was driving under the influence or resisting arrest without violence by failing to obey a lawful command. But if Goyos had been charged, he could likely have proved that McNeil disobeyed his commands. And because “it is established that criminal suspects often conceal or store firearms under the seats of their vehicles,” Goyos would be successful in claiming he was in fear for his life, the report said.
Attorney Bill Matthewman, who represents Goyos, said: “The death of any young man in our community is always a tragedy and our heart goes out to the family of Mr. McNeil. However, Office Goyos’ actions that day were legally justified and lawful.”
The release of Thursday’s close-out memo comes at a politically sensitive time for Fernandez Rundle, the longtime state attorney who is running in a closed primary against fellow Democrat Rod Vereen.
Vereen, who is African-American and a distant cousin of McNeil, is hoping to win with much of the black Democratic vote, a bloc that in the past has supported the incumbent.
Vereen’s campaign, which has the endorsement of Miami-Dade’s police union, did not criticize the close-out memo but noted that “there needs to be more of a connection between the community and police so that these sorts of incidents do not occur in the future. Another son has lost his father.”