An unarmed Miami taxi cab driver killed by police alongside Interstate 95 posed no threat and “can be seen crawling away” on surveillance video as he was fatally shot, his family’s lawyers said Wednesday.
Lawyers for the widow of Junior Prosper, who was shot to death in September 2015, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court Wednesday, releasing a dark and grainy video they believe shows he was killed unjustly as the cop was “standing over” the man.
“He had no gun. He had no knife. He has no weapon at all,” attorney Michael Oppenheimer told reporters at a press conference in front of Miami-Dade’s federal courthouse. “He was, in fact, murdered. Nobody deserves to die like that.”
The lawsuit, filed against Miami-Dade County and Officer Anthony Martin, is the latest in a series of high-profile police shootings nationwide that have sparked concerns about law-enforcement tactics, some of the incidents caught on video.
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The surveillance footage was given to the family’s team of lawyers by a local air-conditioning repair business near the shooting scene.
The footage does not clearly show the chain of events. The officer and Prosper appear as small dark figures and the encounter is difficult to make out. But during the struggle, Propser clearly ends up yards away down a bushy embankment on the side of the highway.
It was more than a year ago that Propser, a Yellow Cab taxi driver, crashed his car into a light-pole near an on-ramp at Northwest 119th Street in Miami-Dade County. Exactly what sparked the crash remains unknown — his family says he had no known psychiatric issues.
Prosper, for some unknown reason, ran up onto the interstate. Martin, driving his patrol car, followed him on the side of the dark interstate, and a confrontation ensued.
The department said the officer tried unsuccessfully to use a Taser on Propser, who bit the officer’s finger to the bone and forced him to fire. He was briefly hospitalized, the department said at the time.
Miami-Dade police union president John Rivera defended the officer’s use of the firearm.
“Absolutely, he was justified,” Rivera said Wednesday. “If someone tries to bite an officer’s finger off, in my view, that guy has become a weapon and he used his teeth as a weapon.”
Asked about allegations of finger biting, Oppenheimer said: “They need to back it … who knows what happened because they’re not telling us.”
The shooting and investigation brought rush-hour traffic to a halt for hours as detectives shut down I-95 in North Miami-Dade.
The criminal investigation into whether Martin acted lawfully remains ongoing. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office will ultimately decide if charges are warranted against Martin.
Lawyers for Edeline Julmisse Prosper, the cab driver’s widow, claim authorities continue their “effort to stonewall information about the shooting death.”
On Wednesday, they went to a civil-court judge to ask for release of certain documents, including Prosper’s autopsy reports. The request was denied.
“It has been 16 months and law enforcement and the government is still saying there is an ongoing criminal investigation. What are they waiting for?” Oppenheimer said. “Let this family know if they are going to charge this officer, as we are asking that they do.”
Prosper’s widow and family members held up photos of the slain man, who had two children with Edeline Prosper, and was helping raise her two other kids. “Every single day his 4-year-old son asks for him, and I don’t know what to tell him,” Edeline Propser said.
The lawsuit was filed by Oppenheimer and Jared Kosoglad from Chicago, and South Florida’s Court Keeley, Todd Poses and Chad Piotrowski.