Nearly five years after four innocent bystanders were shot and Raymond Herisse was killed in a hail of police bullets as his car careened down Collins Avenue on a busy, predawn Memorial Day, the families of the dead and injured have agreed to financial settlements.
The agreements reached through private mediation between Miami Beach and Hialeah police and the shooting victims and their families still have to be processed through the courts before money is awarded, Miami Beach Communications Director Tonya Daniels said Tuesday.
On Miami Beach’s end, the total paid to Herisse’s mother, Marcelline Azor, and three of the four bystanders who were seriously injured but survived the shootings totals $200,000. A fourth shooting victim who survived, Crystal Rivera, did not file a lawsuit. The amount agreed upon with Hialeah still isn’t known. Assistant City Attorney Lorena Bravo did not respond to several phone calls Tuesday.
Herisse’s attorney Marwan Porter said the litigation has been a lengthy fight that the family is finally glad to have put behind them.
“We were able to achieve almost all we could for the family based on the confines of state law,” he said Tuesday. “For her [Azor], it was never about the money. There is no amount of money that will bring her son back.”
State law limits damages to $200,000 per incident. Porter confirmed that Azor had also reached a settlement with Hialeah, though he said he couldn’t go into detail.
Azor told Miami Herald news partner WLRN that there is no satisfaction in the $87,500 she received for her son’s death — because Raymond isn’t coming back.
“They could give me millions and millions of dollars, but there was no justice,” Azor said. “No one went to prison. No one was punished.”
Last year the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office ruled that under Florida law, the 12 officers who fired their weapons were justified in using deadly force to try to stop Herisse, whose driving, the agency determined, had put the lives of several officers and the public in danger.
The shooting garnered national attention because it happened on the last day of Urban Beach Week 2011, the Memorial Day weekend when tens of thousands of mostly African-American visitors from out of state gathered on Miami Beach.
They could give me millions and millions of dollars, but there was no justice. No one went to prison. No one was punished.
Marcelline Azor, reacting to the settlement she received after her 22-year-old son, Raymond Herisse, was shot to death by police on Miami Beach during the 2011 Memorial Day weekend.
“This was not a routine stop of an individual who had committed a traffic violation,” prosecutors wrote in an 87-page final memo detailing the shooting. “The surrounding officers obviously and correctly viewed this as a dangerous and potentially desperate suspect.”
Two years before the state attorney’s finding, Azor and her attorney Porter filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit against Miami Beach and Hialeah, arguing that a lack of gun residue on Herisse showed he never fired a weapon.
Herisse was 22 when he was killed at 4 a.m. on a Monday nearly five years ago. Police said his blue Hyundai Sonata was barreling down Collins Avenue, bumping into parked cars, even striking an officer on a bike, when police opened fire. When the car finally came to a stop at 13th and Collins, witnesses said police continued to shoot.
When the shooting stopped, the Hyundai was riddled with 116 bullets fired by 12 officers and Herisse, shot 16 times, was dead. But the bullets fired by Miami Beach and Hialeah police also found other targets: four innocent bystanders. Three of those shooting victims filed civil lawsuits in hand with the Herisse family.
Cedrick Perkins, who received $15,000 from Miami Beach through mediation, was shot near his heart. Sarah Garcia, who was awarded $55,000 by the Beach, was shot twice, and a bullet also hit Carlson St. Louis, who received $42,500.
No weapon was found during the initial search of Herisse’s car. But several days later police said they found a gun wrapped in a towel under a car seat. And though no officer was criminally charged in that case, the lasting legacy of the Herisse shooting changed the way Miami Beach police now interact with motorists.
No longer can Miami Beach police treat a moving car as a deadly weapon. Miami Beach cops cannot shoot into a moving vehicle unless someone inside the vehicle displays a weapon or fires first.
That policy, which went into effect in October 2014, mirrors one that has been in place in Miami for decades. A Miami police officer has not shot and killed someone inside a vehicle since Officer William Lozano shot Clement Lloyd as he raced his motorcycle through Overtown in 1989. Lozano was tried in court and originally found guilty of using excessive force. His later acquittal at retrial led to riots in Miami.
Miami-Dade police, the largest agency in the Southeastern United States, has a less restrictive policy. Officers in Miami-Dade can fire into a moving vehicle if it “poses an imminent threat of death or serious physical injury to the officer or another person.”
Miami Beach commissioner Michael Grieco said Tuesday he was glad the matter was finally settled: “In lieu of years of protracted litigation that would have loomed over both the city and the police department, I am satisfied that this matter is now closed.’’
Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine said he is hopeful that “we can put that chapter behind us.’’
Miami Herald Staff Writer Joey Flechas contributed to this report.