Aryo Rezaie, the South Miami police officer who shot an unarmed Michael Gavins in November at a Coral Gables gas station, was previously accused of racially profiling and harassing another man during a 2014 traffic stop.
Sgt. Jeffrey Griffin did not sustain allegations of biased-based profiling and illegal search and seizure after an internal affairs investigation concluded last April.
According to the investigation, David Wright was pulled over by an unmarked Ford F-150 pickup truck driven by Rezaie, on Oct. 3, 2014. Rezaie said Wright was stopped for an illegally tinted window, but the window’s tint was never measured.
During the stop, Rezaie said that Wright “became irate and began yelling and screaming.” Rezaie said he let Wright vent until his “irate demeanor” made it difficult to “get the process going.” He asked Wright to get out of his vehicle.
After noticing a “bulge” under Wright’s shirt, Rezaie ordered Wright to place his hands on the hood of the F-150. Wright and his passenger, Richard Redden, were not ticketed upon release. Sgt. Junior Vijil was also present at the stop. The duo was conducting a saturation detail of the area to address recent burglaries and bicycle thefts.
Wright, who is black, said that it was 9:45 p.m. when he was pulled over on Southwest 57th Avenue and he felt he was “being harassed and racially profiled.” He said that the officers became “angry and very aggressive” before Rezaie allegedly said, “You think you are being harassed? If I want to harass you, I would arrest you.”
After being asked to exit his vehicle and put his hands on the truck, Wright said he tried to turn his head toward the officers, but was “immediately shoved into the vehicle and told not to look back.” Wright said that he told the officer he had “no right to put his hands on [him].” He said he was told if he “did not shut up, [he] would be arrested.” Wright said he was told the reason for his “arrest” was “for impeding an investigation and resisting.”
“I feel that I have been racially profiled,” Wright said in his complaint. “I feel my rights were violated. I feel bullied. I feel I was physically assaulted.”
According to the National Institute of Justice, the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice: “There is no single, universally agreed-upon definition of use of force. The International Association of Chiefs of Police has described use of force as the “amount of effort required by police to compel compliance by an unwilling subject.”
“Officers receive guidance from their individual agencies, but no universal set of rules governs when officers should use force and how much,” according to nij.gov.
Gavins, 36, was shot Nov. 15 after being pulled over by Rezaie for speeding, according to the police report. Rezaie said he smelled “a strong odor” from inside Gavins’ car and saw “what appeared to be suspect cannabis in plain sight.” Gavins told his attorney, Paul Layne of Silva & Silva, that he was pulled over for his windows being tinted too dark.
Layne said that Gavins was never cited for speeding, but was cited for defective equipment for an “allegedly” broken rearview mirror and for dark window tints.
Police said that they instructed Gavins to exit the vehicle and wait by the hood of Rezaie’s police cruiser while they searched his car. Rezaie said that he observed Gavins reaching into the front of his waistband, before giving Gavins a verbal command to take his hands out of his waistband, “with negative results.”
According to the report, Gavins kept his hands inside his waistband and began to “act in a nervous manner by turning his back toward Rezaie.” After another command, “Gavins refused” and “began to walk toward officer Rezaie,” the report said. Rezaie then “discharged his firearm once striking Gavins.”
Gavins’ charges of intent to sell marijuana and resisting an officer were recently dropped. He has pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge. Gavins lost his job as a security guard while Rezaie sits on desk duty indefinitely.
Gavins had an arraignment Jan. 22 for his possession charge, and the judge set a March 16 trial date. Gavins and Layne have also met with the state attorney’s office, with police present, about investigating the incident.
“He’s just an honest hard-working man,” Layne said of Gavins. “A gentle giant, who happened to be African American. And who happened to be shot by this officer this way for no reason.”