The family of a 22-year-old Boynton Beach man who was shot 16 times by police during Memorial Day weekend two years ago has filed a civil rights/negligence suit against the Miami Beach and Hialeah police departments.
Marwan Porter, who represents the family, announced the filing at a news conference Tuesday morning in front of Miami Beach police headquarters.
The civil lawsuit contends that police used excessive force in “executing” Raymond Herisse, who was killed after a squadron of officers fired at least 116 shots at his vehicle on May 30, 2011. During the fusillade, four bystanders were also wounded.
The shooting happened during Miami Beach’s Urban Beach Weekend, an annual hip-hop festival that draws tens of thousands of people from around the country. This year’s event starts Friday, and a heavy police presence is expected.
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The mega-gathering often produces hordes of rowdy revelers and, over the years, Miami Beach has beefed up security in response to local concerns that the party has gotten out of control. Some critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union, however, say the police often overstep their authority and show a lack of discipline.
Miami City Attorney Aleksandr Boksner declined comment Tuesday, saying he had not yet seen the lawsuit.
Porter represents Herisse’s mother, Marcelline Azor, who wept uncontrollably during the news conference Tuesday. She and Herisse’s sister, Charline Herisse, said they have been unable to find closure because they still don’t understand why police felt they had to kill her son.
“How do you justify firing over 100 bullets into a crowd of thousands of people?’’ Porter said. “Miami Beach police have some huge problems, not only did they kill somebody who was stationary, but they also shot innocent people.’’
Herisse, who was not armed, was shot 16 times about 4 a.m. At the time of the killing, Miami Beach police said Herisse was driving a blue Hyundai erratically and in the wrong direction on Collins Avenue near 14th Street. When a police officer attempted to pull him over, he allegedly struck the officer and continued driving, smashing into several parked cars. What happened next is still under investigation, but police said Herisse refused orders to stop and exit his car and so they began shooting, believing that he was endangering pedestrians.
An amateur video of the event shows his car rolling slowly to a stop before police trotted up alongside and began firing semi-automatic weapons. Then-Police Chief Carlos Noriega indicated that officers on the scene believed that Herisse had a gun and was firing at them. A firearm was found under a seat in his vehicle three days later, the department said, but gunshot residue tests showed that Herisse never fired a weapon.
His autopsy showed that he had been shot 16 times and was legally drunk.
“If it’s the policy of the Miami Beach police to execute people who drive under the influence when there’s a festival like Urban Beach, we’re going to have a whole lot of dead tourists,’’ Porter said.
Attorneys for the four bystanders have been fighting for two years to receive compensation for their clients who have endured numerous operations and have sizeable medical bills. The victims — Crystal Rivera, Sarah Garcia, Carlson Saint Louis and Cedrick Perkins — say they are still traumatized by what happened.
Garcia has filed a civil lawsuit against Miami Beach, but the other bystanders have not yet brought legal action, citing the ongoing criminal probe. The lawyers recently cleared one legal hurdle when they successfully argued that their clients had the right to some evidence in the case. Circuit Court Judge Victoria S. Sigler ordered the release of lab reports, the autopsy and police dispatch tapes.
Eleven officers, seven from Miami Beach and four from Hialeah, are under criminal investigation in connection with the shooting. Miami Beach police, which is leading the probe, has yet to file its final report with the state attorney’s office. The state attorney will ultimately decide whether to bring charges.