Miami-Dade County

Brownsville man dies of heart attack during police raid

There are many things that are in dispute about the July night gang task force detectives raided the Brownsville home of three Miami brothers.

Here is what’s not in dispute:

During the commotion, one brother, a 50-year-old Denny’s restaurant cook, collapsed in the doorway of a massive heart attack and later was pronounced dead at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Relatives of Othello Russell are outraged, saying they believe the officers — members of the Multi-Agency Gang Task Force, spearheaded by Miami-Dade police but in this case led by Opa-locka officers — targeted the wrong home and literally scared him to death.

Miami police homicide detectives are investigating Russell’s death, which remains an open case as the Medical Examiner’s Office wraps up its investigation.

Police did indeed arrest Russell’s two brothers, David, 41, and Charles, 43, on firearm charges, although the case against Charles was dropped because the arresting Opa-locka detective, Roberto Demoya, failed to appear for a meeting with prosecutors.

“They were cussing at him [Othello Russell], telling him to go outside. He never gave consent,” David Lee Russell said from jail, where he is being held on the firearms charge, in addition to a probation violation. “My brother wouldn’t have been dead if the cops hadn’t come. He was scared.”

The Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association, which represents Opa-locka police, said officers did nothing wrong.

“There were no actions by the officers that caused this man’s death,” PBA President John Rivera said. “He just died of natural causes.”

While Miami-Dade police organizes the Gang Task Force, which includes officers from various law enforcement agencies, a department spokesman said the Brownsville raid was initiated by Opa-locka officers.

“They were acting on their own information,” the spokesman said.

Counterparts at Miami police were not part of the raid, but the death is being investigated by the department’s homicide unit. An Opa-locka city spokesman said the raid, which included federal agents, came as a result of a tip.

The episode unfolded the night of July 25 at the home of the Russell brothers, in the 1800 block of Northwest 47th Street.

According to David and Charles Russell, the three brothers were sitting on the porch when officers pulled up and rushed out.

One detective opened the front door, despite Othello Russell jumping up, following him inside while telling him he could not enter. Russell collapsed, just inside the home.

Charles Russell, also a Denny’s cook, said the officer asked: “Do you think he’s faking it?”

“They never gave him no aid. They just let [David] try to wake him up,” Charles Russell said. “About 10 minutes later, that’s when Fire-Rescue showed up. Right after he fell out, that’s when they did their search.”

The officers have in evidence a “consent to search” document signed, they say, by one of the brothers. The signature is unclear.

David and Charles Russell insisted no one signed the document.

“We’re questioning the validity of the consent to search,” said David Russell’s lawyer, Randell Petre.

According to Demoya’s arrest report, a fully loaded 9mm pistol was found next to David Russell’s wallet in the living room, where the man slept. The gun had been reported stolen.

Russell is on probation for a 2004 conviction on a second-degree murder charge, a case for which he served 10 years prison, records show.

He is still jailed at MetroWest Detention Center while awaiting trial.

Demoya also arrested Charles Russell on charges of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The detective said he found a .40-caliber pistol in the man’s room.

Charles Russell was convicted in 1991 of armed robbery, and acknowledged that he couldn’t possess a gun, Demoya noted in his report.

But prosecutors declined to pursue the case against Charles Russell after Demoya failed to appear for a standard “pre-file” meeting to present his case, according to the State Attorney’s Office.

“It’s all very bizarre,” Charles Russell said.

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