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May 30, 2013

Miami Beach chief says he’ll hand over recordings in Memorial Day shooting

Under extreme pressure, Miami Beach will surrender a key piece of evidence in the probe of 12 cops who gunned down a motorist.

Amid scathing criticism and calls for a U.S. Justice Department probe, Miami Beach police on Thursday announced that they would release the police radio transmissions in connection with a May 2011 Memorial Day Weekend shooting.

The recordings however, will not be made public, but distributed to the lawyers for the victims, Miami Beach Police Chief Ray Martinez said. Initially, the chief wanted to make them public, he said, but Assistant City Attorney Aleksandr Boksner warned him that he would be breaking the law and could be charged with a third-degree felony.

Martinez contacted the plaintiffs’ attorneys directly to make arrangements to deliver the recordings, which are considered among the most important pieces of evidence in the case. Twelve police officers — eight from Miami Beach and four from Hialeah — are under criminal investigation in connection with the shooting.

One person was killed and four others critically wounded when the officers fired 116 shots at a drunk, erratic motorist during the city’s annual Urban Beach festival. Two years and several lawsuits later, police — up until now — have failed to produce evidence to justify the deadly onslaught during the event, which attracts a largely African American crowd.

Martinez, who was second in command in the department at the time of the shootings, said he thought the audio recordings were released to the attorneys weeks ago, pursuant to a court order. The lead detectives made copies of the recordings and handed them to Boksner, he said.

A police department records custodian sent an email to The Herald Wednesday saying they had been destroyed, prompting an uproar among the surviving victims, who have not fully recovered from their wounds.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office, however, contradicted the city Wednesday, insisting that the recordings had been preserved.

The yo-yo statements about the recordings led Jasmine Rand, who represents victim Cedrick Perkins, to call for intervention by the U.S. Department of Justice Thursday. At a news conference, she said the city’s failure to release the recordings — in spite of a court order to do so — indicates a cover-up.

Martinez, however, said that despite Boksner’s admonition, he intends to abide by the judge’s order.

The recordings that are being released, he said, are all the radio transmissions made by police officers before, during and after the shootings.

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