Miami-Dade County

Controversial Miami police shooting may result in $1M settlement

Sheila McNeil, mother of Travis McNeil, an unarmed Miami man who was fatally shot by a police officer in 2011, holds on to a small portrait of her son while sitting in her livingroom in Overtown in 2013.
Sheila McNeil, mother of Travis McNeil, an unarmed Miami man who was fatally shot by a police officer in 2011, holds on to a small portrait of her son while sitting in her livingroom in Overtown in 2013. Miami Herald Staff

Four years after a Miami police officer killed an unarmed black man during a hectic traffic stop, the city is poised to settle with the victim’s estate for almost $1 million.

Miami commissioners on Thursday will vote on a proposed $975,000 payment to the estate of Travis McNeil, killed in February 2011 by Officer Reynaldo Goyos while sitting behind the wheel of a stopped Kia Sorrento. Goyos, who was working that night with a federal task force, shot McNeil, 28, and his cousin when the officer said McNeil ignored his commands and reached toward his waistband.

No guns were found in the car. It’s believed McNeil was reaching for his cell phone.

Goyos, local police officers and federal agents followed McNeil and his cousin that night after the two left the Take One Lounge on Northeast 79th Street, where the law enforcement officers were targeting gang members under Operation Southern Tempest. When McNeil and Kareem Williams were kicked out of the bar before midnight and began speeding and swerving, officers followed them and stopped them by boxing their Kia in with police vehicles.

Goyos approached the driver’s side of the vehicle, where McNeil was sitting with the window down. Goyos said he feared for his life when McNeil ignored his commands to show his hands, and reached downward for a black object. Goyos shot McNeil fatally, and wounded Williams.

The shooting was the final incident in a string of deadly encounters between Miami police and black men that led to a Department of Justice inquiry into the department. After a lengthy review of Miami police shootings, Justice found in 2013 that the department had engaged in a practice of excessive force and recommended a series of policy changes that continue to be negotiated.

Also in 2013, McNeil’s estate sued the city and federal government, arguing that negligence and excessive force led Goyos to kill McNeil. A civil trial was scheduled for next month, but it appears Miami officials will choose to settle instead.

The settlement includes no admission of fault by the city. But the proposed payout is large when compared to most setttlements that go before the commission.

If approved, the money would be paid to McNeil’s estate, which includes his surviving teenage son and younger daughter. City Manager Daniel Alfonso said a majority of the payment would be covered by insurance. But the settlement won’t be capped by Florida’s sovereign immunity laws because it’s a civil rights issue, Alfonso said.

Ray Taseff, a Coral Gables civil rights attorney for McNeil’s estate, declined to comment on the pending settlement Wednesday. Miami City Attorney Victoria Mendez did not respond to an email seeking comment.

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