The city of Miami’s independent oversight board has temporarily rejected a recommendation to exonerate a Miami police officer who fatally shot an unarmed man in 2010, deciding instead to conduct a deeper investigation into the shooting.
The 7-1 vote late Tuesday came after a coalition of community activists voiced concerns about the Civilian Investigative Panel’s initial probe.
“This is a real victory for the community,” said Jeanne Baker, who chairs the police practices committee for the ACLU in Miami. “It was heartening to see so many community members attend the meeting and speak passionately about the need for a more thorough investigation into why an unarmed black man was shot and killed.”
The shooting on July 5, 2010, was one of a string of seven deadly shootings of black men in the inner-city by Miami police officers in 2010 and 2011. Two of the men, including DeCarlos Moore, were unarmed.
Officer Joseph Marin, then a rookie, had run Moore’s license plate through a national database and believed the car to be stolen. But before Marin and his field training officer, Vionna Brown-Williams, could conduct a traffic stop, Moore pulled to the side of the road and got out of his white Honda Accord.
The two officers stepped out of their patrol car and ordered Moore to put his hands on the Accord, according to the CIP report.
Instead, Moore reached for a shiny object inside the car, prompting Marin to fire a single fatal shot.
Police later learned that the shiny object was rock cocaine crumpled in tin foil and that the car was not stolen. Investigators blamed a glitch in the computer system.
Miami-Dade prosecutors cleared Marin of criminal wrongdoing the following year. But a coalition of community groups, including the NAACP and the ACLU, implored the Civilian Investigative Panel to take another look at the case.
Earlier this month, the CIP’s outside counsel determined that Marin’s use of deadly force was reasonable and did not violate city policy.
“Officer Marin’s use of deadly force in this tense, uncertain and rapidly evolving encounter with a non-compliant driver of a suspected stolen car comports with the Fourth Amendment’s ‘objective reasonableness’ standard,” investigators wrote.
They recommended that the CIP exonerate Marin.
The community activists were not convinced. They argued that the investigation should have reviewed the events that preceded the shooting, and taken a deeper look at the department’s use-of-force policy. They also argued they had been prevented from giving input into the investigation.
More than two dozen members of community groups turned out at the CIP meeting Tuesday to make the case for a deeper investigation.
“We wanted to make sure the CIP is more than just a rubber stamp,” said Nathaniel Wilcox, executive director of People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality, the community group known as PULSE. “We’ve already had a lot of witnesses come and speak to us,” CIP Chairman Thomas Cobtiz said. “But we are always open to hear what everyone has to say.”
Miami Herald writer Erin Jester contributed to this report.