• The why: The people who know first-hand what was said, what was seen, what prompted the initial shot the 12 officers have not given statements.
The judge weighs in
Frustrated by delays, family members, wounded bystanders and their lawyers filed a public records lawsuit last year demanding that Miami Beach turn over information so that the victims can pay their medical expenses and recover their loss of wages.
Miami Beach police responded that, by law, they could keep the evidence secret because the investigation is not yet complete.
But last month, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Victoria Sigler ordered the department to release the autopsy, the 911 calls, all radio dispatches and video recordings connected to the case. All other evidence will remain under wraps for now.
Sigler, however, seemed disturbed by testimony at the hearing that the final report had been languishing on a supervisors desk since last year.
At the hearing, Sgt. Howard Bennett testified that the investigation has taken so long because it involved four different crime scenes, along with analyzing reams of evidence. The ballistics tests alone, which involved a dozen different firearms and 116 shell casings, took nine months, he explained.
But attorney Jasmine Rand, who represents victim Cedrick Perkins, contended there is no legitimate reason why the probe has dragged on so long. The delay, she insisted, is part of the departments effort to impede justice and to find some way to explain its use of excessive force.
We have alleged that there has been an improper investigation and there were problems with the evidence from the very beginning of the case and tampering with evidence, Reed argued.
Bennett, the plaintiff lawyers also learned, is one of the main investigators involved in the criminal inquiry even though he was a supervisor on the scene at the time of the shooting.
Bennett testified that he was the response platoon supervisor who was following the incident as it unfolded on Collins Avenue. Bennett further said that as the supervisor of the criminal probe, his job is to keep track of all the different aspects under investigation, including witness statements, DNA evidence, ballistic evidence, crime scene evidence and coordinating the processing of Herisses vehicle.
Bennetts role in the criminal probe is a clear conflict of interest, said Chuck Drago, a police-practices consultant and former Oviedo, Fla., police chief and assistant chief in Fort Lauderdale.
If he was on that scene, then there is a real possibility he could be called as a witness. Its just astonishing that he would be involved in the probe at all, Drago said.
The 911 calls released by police last month give a glimpse into the chaos that ensued following the shooting, with panicked callers describing victims sprawled in pools of blood and writhing in pain after being shot. During several of the calls, its difficult to hear the caller over screaming in the background.
I have a guy a dude shot in the chest man! said one frightened caller, explaining he was near 14th and Collins.
Seconds later, another call to 911:
There is a person bleeding in our lobby, said an employee of the Delores Hotel, 1420 Collins Ave. The caller screams into the lobby: Im calling 911! and then tells dispatchers that the victim, in his 20s, came into the hotel from outside and was apparently shot. In the background people are shouting and the hotels alarm is screeching.