Miami-Dade County

The day Miami was rocked by riot after cops cleared in McDuffie beating

A firefighter on the scene.
A firefighter on the scene. File

The verdict changed Miami.

As word spread that a Tampa jury acquitted four white Miami-Dade police officers in the beating death of insurance agent Arthur McDuffie, rage swept over the Magic City on May 17, 1980.

For three days, people poured into the streets. When the anger and the violence ended, 18 people were dead and 400 were injured. Property damage totaled $100 million.

A city was scarred.

Then we asked, “What now?”

Liberty City and Overtown were hit worst. People wanted answers. They wanted change.

Miami was hurting. It took years for a recovery. Some say the city has never fully recovered.

Here is a look back at the painful events of 37 years ago.

MORE: Photos of the McDuffie Riots of 1980 at Flashback Miami

FROM THE ARCHIVES

BY CELIA W. DUGGER

From 1985

The day before the worst riot in Miami's history, Miami Police patrol commander Mike Mahoney felt trouble coming.

He assigned one extra two-man car to Liberty City.

The absurdity of his precaution became self-evident the next day — five years ago this week — when an all-white jury in Tampa acquitted Dade County police officers in the beating death of black insurance man Arthur McDuffie.

Unparalleled in modern American history for its random anti-white violence, the riot forced all of Miami to re-examine itself, but it struck local police with special ferocity. The departments were unprepared, understaffed and out of touch with black Miami. Metro had a one-page riot guide.

It forced major changes in two of Dade County's most traditional, conservative institutions: the Miami and Metro police departments.

Video flashback: In 2010, 30 years after Miami erupted in riots that left 18 dead and transfigured the city, residents share their memories of the McDuffie case.

"The whole police method has changed almost 100 percent, " said Bob Simms, who was director of the Dade Community Relations Board for 16 years. "The police no longer go into the black community like occupational forces in alien territory. They deal hard with the criminal element, but with respect for the community."

In the last five years, the police have taken important steps to bring officers closer to the black communities that make up one-fifth of Dade County's population and one-quarter of Miami's, to promote blacks to positions of leadership and to crack down on officers who too frequently resort to force. They also have devised a detailed riot control plan.

"Five years ago, they came in here like big white bullies with their guns and nightsticks, " said Liberty City resident Annie Love, who heads the tenants association in the Scott housing projects. "Now they don't come in with that bully attitude. They're worth our taxpayer dollars."

Since May 1980, civil disturbances have twice ripped Miami: first in December 1982, when Miami officer Luis Alvarez killed Nevell Johnson, a black man, in a video arcade; then again in March 1984, when Alvarez was acquitted in the Johnson case. Both times, police used their new riot control plan. No one was killed. During the McDuffie riots, 18 people died, more than 400 were treated at area hospitals, 71 businesses were destroyed, 238 businesses were damaged, 3,000 jobs were lost, and there was $100 million in property damage.

Could there be another riot? "Yes, it could happen again in a heartbeat. All it takes is a bad set of circumstances, " said Metro Sgt. Robert Hoelscher, who led SWAT teams into the 1980 riot.

Old bad blood

In the year before the 1980 riot, relations between blacks and police had hit a new low. Events took place against a decades-old backdrop of bad blood that led many blacks to fear they would be harassed or physically abused by officers.

Four particularly nasty police brutality and abuse cases in 1979 and 1980 created a crescendo of outrage. After the courts let all the officers charged in each case walk away free, the anger exploded. The cases:

▪  In January 1979, Willie Thomas Jones, a white state trooper, sexually molested an 11-year-old black girl. Seven months later, Jones did not contest the charge. He got no jail time, just three years' probation.

▪ In February 1979, Dade detectives mistakenly served a search warrant at the home of black school teacher Nathaniel LaFleur, who was seriously injured in a struggle with them. A grand jury did not indict the officers for criminal wrongdoing.

▪ In September 1979, an off-duty Hialeah police officer working as a security guard shot and killed Randy Heath, a 22- year-old black man. The grand jury said the death was negligent, not criminal.

And in December 1979, McDuffie was fatally injured by county police after he fled from them on his motorcycle. Five officers were charged with manslaughter. On May 17, 1980, at 2:40 p.m., the McDuffie jury acquitted all the officers.

By 7 o'clock that night, the riot was in full swing. When Metro Sgt. Robert Edwards and his eight-man squad went on the streets of Liberty City at 6 that evening, "One of the sergeants stuck his head in the door and said, 'Don't forget your helmet and nightsticks.' That was the extent of our instructions."

The riot escalated with frightening suddenness, in Liberty City, in Coconut Grove, at the Metro Justice Building.

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Miami burns. Miami Herald File

On 62nd Street in front of the Liberty Square housing project and on 22nd Avenue by the Scott projects, six whites were either dragged from their cars and beaten to death, or burned to death within the first hours of the riot. The undermanned and unplanned efforts by police to set up perimeters came too late for them.

Police called in hundreds of off-duty officers who roved from call to call, "helter-skelter, " Mahoney said. But the police were losing the battle. Sgt. Hoelscher said it was like chasing phantom guerrilla warriors. "We never fully recovered the troubled area. We were fighting individual problems, a sniping, a shooting, a car assault, a major looting. It was highly mobile hit-and-run stuff.

"We weren't rescuing people. We were rescuing bodies, " he said.

The uncontrolled violence of 1980 led to sweeping changes in the way police try to prevent and prepare for disturbances.

"It was self-preservation that motivated the changes, " said Major Douglas Hughes, who in 1980 commanded Metro's central district, which polices a mostly black area of Dade County, including part of Liberty City.

The most important change, one that made others possible, is the increased size of the forces. Since then, the number of Metro officers has grown by 747, from 1,333 in 1980 to 2,080 today. The number of Miami officers went from 660 to 1,050.

Police say that alone has reduced officer stress and given them more time to respond to the needs of the community.

City and county police also have taken steps to make officers more careful about using force.

Metro has dropped the informal practice of using "midnight central" as a punishment beat, Hughes said. Officers who got into trouble often were put on the graveyard shift in central district, he said.

Under department director Bobby Jones, appointed in 1979, Metro has developed an early warning system that flags officers who use force three times or more within three months. The officer's commander then has to file a report explaining what happened.

If the new system is accurate, many fewer officers frequently resort to force. In the first six months of the program in 1981, 70 names got flagged. In the three years since, 1982-84, only 44 officers were listed.

Metro also has gotten tougher on officers who have serious complaints lodged against them. Instead of the officer's own commander sitting in judgment, a panel of three high-ranking officers, two of them out of his chain of command, decide.

The number of serious complaints in 1984, 137, was almost identical to the number in 1980, 135, but the police force was 36 percent larger.

And many more complaints filed against officers are sustained now. In 1979, officers were disciplined in only 8.5 percent of the cases. For the last four years, at least one- third of the cases have been decided against the officer.

Because of concern about police misbehavior, Metro also set up a full-time civilian Independent Review Panel to investigate complaints against county employees the month before the riot.

In August 1980, Miami, too, implemented an early warning system that flags officers who get five complaints or more within a two-year period. The officer's supervisor is then required to write a report and provide stress counseling.

While the size of the force has grown by 37 percent, the number of names that turn up, 20 or 30 for each reporting period, and the number of complaint rulings against an officer held steady.

Improving relations

Metro and Miami also have taken steps to improve their general relationships with the black community.

On the affirmative action front, Metro has been more aggressive with regard to blacks than Miami, though both have moved blacks into strategically important leadership positions. Miami now has its first black police chief, Clarence Dickson.

From May 1980 to the present, Metro's police force went from 8 percent to 13.5 percent black. In 1980, only 14 blacks had supervisory positions. Today 49 do, including the commanders of two of the seven districts: Lonnie Lawrence, in central, and Lawrence Brady, in southwest.

In Miami, the percentage of blacks on the force jumped from 14 percent to 16.4 percent between 1980 and 1981, but in the years since, it has remained at about that same level. In contrast, the employment of Hispanic officers has almost doubled, from 22 percent of the force in 1980 to 41 percent in 1985.

The number of black supervisors in Miami has grown from 14 in 1980 to 29 in 1985.

Both departments also have instituted "park and walk" programs that get police out of their cars and onto the streets where they meet people, and at least in theory build support from the community.

Pat Murphy, chief of police in Washington, D.C., Detroit and New York City in the late '60s and early '70s, and still a leading police reformer, said street work is essential.

"Its not goody-goody stuff. It's the basis of solving crimes and preventing disorders. If you sit in your car, you can't find out who the criminals are, " he said.

In another attempt to get closer to people, Miami voted for a $10 million bond issue to build police stations in Liberty City and Little Havana. And in 1983, after the first Alvarez disturbance, Miami opened a mini-station in Overtown.

Metro has built a "team police" program of more than 50 officers, most of whom police Dade's housing projects. To avoid being blindsided by future riots, both Miami and Metro have improved their intelligence gathering since 1980. Every two weeks Metro gets "indicators of unrest" (IOU) reports from each of its seven districts describing demonstrations, assaults on police officers, police brutality complaints, and other signals of unrest.

And finally, both departments are equipped to handle a riot if and when it happens. They have the information to see it coming and to get ready. They have more officers to deploy. And they have a detailed strategy for quickly extinguishing a disturbance.

Unlike the helter-skelter of 1980, with officers roving randomly in the chaos, the new strategy organizes them into squads of 50 people in 14 vehicles that travel together like one huge battleship.

The new methods were tested March 15, 1984, when Alvarez was acquitted in the Nevell Johnson case. The IOUs predicted trouble. Miami's Overtown officers "had their finger on the pulse of the neighborhood and knew where the hot spots were, " said Mahoney.

Within minutes of the verdict, the looting and sniping had started. Police immediately closed off certain streets to keep innocents from driving into hell. Traffic lights flashed so people could drive through trouble spots quickly.

Three special riot units were on the street, arresting hundreds of people, breaking up crowds, enforcing order and keeping the city of Miami within the bounds of civilization.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

BY AMY DRISCOLL

From 2005

The Miami intersection that marked the end of Jeffrey Kulp's life and the beginning of the city's worst riots doesn't warrant a second glance today.

The Liberty Square housing project is still there, low-slung buildings with neat metal fences that betray nothing of the human toll exacted in 1980. Up the road, the looted Pantry Pride supermarket is an empty shell, gone. So are many of the small businesses that used to line 62nd Street.

Only a sign at 62nd and Northwest 17th Avenue that proclaims ''Arthur Lee McDuffie Avenue'' offers an outward clue to the ferocity that erupted along there 25 years ago, sweeping through the city's black communities with a rage that would cripple Miami for years, even decades.

Four white police officers were acquitted by an all-white jury in the death of McDuffie, a black Miami insurance agent. McDuffie, a former Marine, had been fatally beaten while handcuffed after a police chase by a group of white police officers, who then tried to cover it up as an accident. The verdict, coming as the black community's relationship with law enforcement reached an all-time low, sent people pouring into the streets. A three-day rampage of fury and grief followed, escalating with frightening speed in Liberty City, the Black Grove, Overtown and Brownsville, killing 18 people, costing 3,000 jobs and causing $100 million in damage.

Kulp, 22, was one of the first victims, a white man stumbling into the disturbance. He was beaten, shot, stabbed and run over by another motorist after a car driven by his brother veered out of control and hit a young black girl on 62nd Street.

''You had very, very angry people on the streets during those years,'' said Robert Simms, director of the Community Relations Board in 1980. 'By the time McDuffie happened, the precedent was set: `When politicians start messing with us, let's get it on.' The verdict was seen as an injustice. And so the riots in 1980 were on.''

Violence spread

Even with 25 years of perspective, the magnitude is still stunning. Cars burned with victims inside, and black plumes of smoke could be seen 15 miles away. A curfew covered 52 square miles, with lawlessness reaching all the way to the Metro Justice Building downtown, where a rally turned into more rioting. Police cars were torched, the National Guard was called in, and an entire country watched the hellish panorama that was the Miami skyline.

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A police car sits toppled as riot police stand guard. Miami Herald File

Years of rebuilding efforts would bring about only faltering change in the areas worst hit. Poverty continues at much the same level: 38 percent of the residents of Model City -- an area that overlaps Liberty City -- lived in poverty in 1980, and 20 years later the rate was 44 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.

Moving out

Population loss also drained the areas most affected by the riots. Model City's population of 45,000 dropped to about 33,000 five years ago. Overtown showed similar flight: A population of about 11,000 was down to fewer than 9,000 by 2000.

For years, Agnes Thomas, owner of Thomas Produce Market on 62nd Street, has been one of the hopeful holdouts, still trying to lure customers to the open-air market with piles of glistening greens, mounds of oranges, crates of melons.

She and her husband, Reginald, bought the market in 1979, months before the riots, and she has been trying to keep it open since her husband died last year. But business isn't good.

''The families are all gone,'' she said. ``Since the riots, they tore down the apartment buildings and left empty lots. Used to be I'd have to keep my eyes open; kids would be running in and out. Not anymore.''

Changes evident

It used to be that there was a dry cleaner next door, several gas stations on the corners, mom-and-pop stores within walking distance.

''You could walk to buy shoes,'' Thomas said. ``Now, even the filling stations are closed up.''

From her seat behind the counter, she can see across the street, where some of the earliest unrest broke out.

''I was right here when it happened,'' she said. ``I stayed inside until my husband told me to go home. But he stayed to watch the place. I remember it like it was yesterday.''

Even though her two sons run the business these days, the 85-year-old owner says she has decided to put the market up for sale.

''It's a shame,'' she said. ``My husband wanted to hold on until the area came up again. But it just doesn't seem to be getting any better.''

Improvement seen

While the economic assessment may be bleak, according to many, strides have been made in other areas. Policing has improved, most agree, with training to bridge cultural differences, and more black police officers have been hired and promoted.

Georgia Ayers, a born-and-raised Miamian at the forefront of police community-relations training since 1965, when she complained about police sending their dogs after blacks, said the training has helped. But maybe not enough. Decades of programs held out as solutions for the worst-hit areas nearly always seem to trail off without accomplishing much, she said.

''Could I see it happening again sometime?'' She didn't ponder the question for long. ``It wouldn't be all that surprising to me.''

FROM THE ARCHIVES

BY PATRICIA ANDREWS

From 2013

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Patricia Andrews Miami

I hear on WEDR radio that a Tampa jury has just found five white and Hispanic cops not guilty of beating a young black Miami motorcyclist to death.

It is early afternoon on a mid-May Saturday in 1980, with lots of daylight left for simmering anger to boil over.

I am new to Miami, assigned to the Herald’s Neighbors office in deep South Miami-Dade. But the McDuffie beating and trial have consumed the community. When I hear Jerry Rushin on the radio begging everyone to behave, I realize this is big. Although I’m in a flowery sundress with spaghetti straps and sandals with three-inch heels, I know I should go into the newsroom.

I quickly get an education in Miami’s volatile racial politics from veteran reporters before City Editor Mike Baxter hands me a giant walkie-talkie with instructions to check in, and dispatches me to Liberty City.

That radio would be my only link to the City Desk. It would also almost get me killed.

A crowd gathers at a corner grocery store. I notice young men buying sodas. They dump the drinks, then fill the bottles with stolen gas to make flaming weapons, tossing them at unsuspecting motorists on Northwest 22nd Avenue.

At some point, a muffled voice comes over the walkie-talkie. “Pat Andrews! Come in, please! Pat Andrews!”

The young men think I am a cop and come after me. I take off, then realize I’m in heels, and running into a dark area.

Cluelessness quickly turns to survival.

“I’m a Miami Herald reporter!” I shout, whipping out my ID. “I’m here to report your story!”

FROM THE ARCHIVES

BY DAVID SMILEY

From 2015

Of all the fires that raged across Miami during the city’s bleakest days, when race riots claimed 18 lives and destroyed $100 million in property, none were as intense or toxic as the blaze that engulfed the Norton Tire Company warehouse.

Packed with rubber and fuel, the headquarters for one of the nation's largest independent tire distributors erupted on May 17, 1980, along with Miami’s inner-city neighborhoods following the acquittal of four white police officers who had brutally beaten a black, handcuffed insurance agent to death with their flashlights. Looters ignited the interior of the warehouse, setting off a plume of black smoke that covered the bedroom community of Brownsville in a post-apocalyptic haze for days.

It was the epochal pyre of the McDuffie riots, lit by people so enraged by the failure of the justice system they destroyed their own neighborhoods. The consequences of the damage have lasted decades, and in Brownsville, exactly 35 years after Arthur McDuffie’s killers walked free, the scar of the Norton Tire fire remains.

“We’ve not recovered,” said longtime resident Neal Adams, Jr., 73. “A whole class of business people is basically gone and dead.”

Before the riots, Brownsville was a quiet, predominantly African American community of teachers, doctors, judges and other professionals. Black families began moving into the neighborhood after World War II, according to historian Marvin Dunn. Some owned mom-and-pop businesses, like Adams’ father, who ran Neal’s Grocery Market on Northwest 27th Avenue.

“This was quite a community,” said historian and archivist Dorothy Jenkins Fields, whose family, including a radiologist and judge, owned several homes in the block directly west of the Norton Tire property. “And a powerful community, too.”

As the community grew, Norton Tire Co. set up a 75,000-square-foot headquarters in 1955, a few blocks north of Adams’ grocery store, on 54th Street.

The officers’ acquittal

Then, on Dec. 17, 1979, Arthur McDuffie ran a red light on his motorcycle past Metro-Dade Sgt. Ira Diggs and took off. Diggs gave chase, as did many other police officers, and when they stopped McDuffie at North Miami Avenue and Northeast 38th Street, as many as a dozen officers beat him into a coma. He died in the hospital.

His death outraged Miami’s black community. Six months later, on the morning of May 17, when an all-white Tampa jury found the four officers on trial not guilty, thousands took to the streets, first in Liberty City and then downtown and elsewhere. A few hours later, they began throwing rocks and bottles at cars on 62nd Street. The gatherings quickly escalated into a riot, and cars were burned — some with people inside.

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Reinforcements take to the streets. Miami Herald File

Motorists were dragged out of their cars and beaten to death. Hundreds were injured. By day two, Gov. Bob Graham called in the National Guard.

Miami activist William “D.C.” Clark remembers watching the verdict at home and then at his mother’s behest driving west through Liberty City to get his aunt and pull her out of the Lincoln Gardens apartments on 22nd Avenue, near the epicenter of the violence. He says he realized how terrible things had become when he heard someone whistle when a white couple drove by and then watched a mob shower rocks down on their sedan and drag the couple out of the stopped car and through the street.

Young and black, Clark says, he didn’t fear for his life, but “feared for my city.”

He had good reason. By nightfall, Miami was burning. Clark says the fires covered black neighborhoods in a sooty haze that reeked of rubber and fumes.

“The smell of chaos was in the air,” he said.

Tire warehouse blaze

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Howard Katzen, S. Ronald Pallot and Norton Pallot, partners who owned the Norton Tire Company, return to the site of their Brownsville headquarters. The vacant lot was never rebuilt after rioters burned down their facility on the southwest corner of 54th Street and Northwest 27th Avenue. The photo in hand shows the destroyed building. Al Diaz Miami Herald Staff

Howard Katzen, S. Ronald Pallot and Norton Pallot, partners who owned the Norton Tire Company, return to the site of their Brownsville headquarters. The vacant lot was never rebuilt after rioters burned down their facility on the southwest corner of 54th Street and Northwest 27th Avenue. The photo in hand shows the destroyed building.

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Some time into the late evening on May 17, Norton Pallot received a call. It was the night manager at his 24-hour tire warehouse in Brownsville. Prowlers were banging on the outside of the complex trying to get in.

Pallot said he called the police, but they were concerned only about human life, not property damage. A little while later, Pallot said, his night manager called back: “He said they’ve broken in and they’re looting the warehouse. He said they’re banging on my window.”

According to Dunn, the historian, one witness said thousands surrounded the complex, and looters broke through locked doors by backing into them repeatedly with a small car. Police did pull the night manager out, Pallot says, but his warehouse couldn’t be saved. A fire tore through the building, igniting large tires too heavy for the looters to pull out and mountains of rubber from a re-treading facility. He says there were also underground fuel tanks on site.

The blaze that followed lasted six days, according to reports in the Miami Herald, and could be seen for miles. National news carried the image across the globe. Pallot, now 90, said a friend from Uruguay called him to tell him he’d seen his building burning on the news.

“They just let the thing burn itself out. It looked as if the whole community was on fire,” Dunn said. “That was the image that flashed around the world, the Norton Tire company burning.”

When the fire started, Fields’ uncle called, worried that if the wind began to blow west the fire would jump to their homes. So they packed up their belongings and fled to a hotel.

“We were so afraid. My husband and I were here with small children. My mother and father were living at that house. We were all right here. And we didn’t know what was going to happen,” Fields said.

The wind didn’t shift, and Fields’ family homes still stand today. But the smell of burning rubber lingered and fouled the air. Fields, a certified archivist and founder of the Black Archives, scoured the site for any Norton Tire documents with historic value, but she said the blaze charred everything.

Afterward, Pallot visited the ruins of his $10 million headquarters and said he was done with Brownsville. He moved the family business to Doral, taking some 60 jobs out of the inner city and leaving behind a toxic sore that sat in the middle of Miami’s black community for years before it was cleaned up.

“That was the biggest single job loss at that tire company,” said Dunn.

Pallot, who says many of his company’s African American employees made the move to Doral, has often asked himself why his warehouse was targeted. A majority of the employees were black, he said. But he’s heard a story that circulated in the years and decades after the riot and might explain the fire. It’s repeated by Miami rapper Maurice “Trick Daddy” Young in his autobiography.

Norton Tire, he wrote, was “where cops beat and interrogated black folks during the 1960s and ’70s. Folks took pleasure in lighting that fire.”

A hole in Brownsville

Whatever the reason, destroying the Norton Tire complex and surrounding businesses — including a hardware store, drug store and Shell gas station — ripped a hole in Brownsville. At Jet Drugs, owner Robert Rideman used to give free medications to poor families, according to Nathaniel Pruitt, a bus driver who last week talked to a reporter while visiting a Brownsville auto shop.

“When they burned his store down, that’s when the neighborhood went straight down,” said Pruitt, 62.

Adams says the destruction of a shopping center with a Sears and J.C. Penney left the community without major retail shops. And some grocery stores were destroyed, including the Adams family’s, which was irreparably damaged when police shot tear gas into the building.

Shortly after, more businesses were razed to make way for the construction of Metrorail tracks along Northwest 27th Avenue.

“There’s no place to do your shopping now. We used to be a little self-contained community with a number of neighborhood stores and services that go with them,” Adams said. “Things you take for granted.”

Attempts to rebuild the Norton Tire site haven’t been entirely wasted, but they’ve surely been troubled. Soon after the riots, the Pallot family agreed to sell the land to a community development corporation, New Washington Heights, which had plans for building a residential and commercial facility. But it took years for anything to get built, and the nonprofit was constantly accused of wasting money while yielding few results.

The county took control of the property, and in the mid ’90s, New Washington Heights was able to build and sell 18 homes on the western edge of the Norton Tire property. But its larger commercial plans were scrapped. Jackie Bell, head of the nonprofit, blames a change in county leadership, saying at one point she had Walgreens and IHOP lined up as tenants.

“In the African American community, what takes another community two years, it takes us almost 15,” she said. “For every forward step this community makes, it seems as if a thousand steps put you backwards.”

But there’s some progress in the neighborhood. The “smell of chaos” has been replaced by the scent of French fries wafting from a Checkers burger joint. New developments with hopeful names, like Renaissance and Phoenix, have gone up. Across the street, a new tire shop just opened up two weeks ago; its employees know about Norton Tire and the riots only through stories. On the opposite side of the Norton lot, Carlisle Group recently built a $100 million, 467-unit mixed-income rental project.

And as soon as next week, Miami-Dade County expects to close on a $1.5 million deal to sell the remainder of the Norton Tire property to Presidente Supermarkets, which plans to build a grocery store with apartments on top. It’s something the Brownsville community has been requesting for more than a decade.

Fields says Brownsville will never be the same. But she believes there is still hope for a revival, and life after the riots.

“It certainly isn’t the way it once was and it never will be,” she said. “But progress has been made.”

One young man demands a closer look. Then, anger pours out — at the police, the media, the justice system, unemployment.

They quickly line up to give their points of view.

I finally call the City Desk with the information I’ve just gathered from the streets. I have no idea whether my contribution will be used in the story to appear in the next day’s newspaper, but it doesn’t matter. Miami is still burning.

TIMELINE: ROOTS OF ‘79 MCDUFFIE RIOTS

Dec. 17, 1979: At 1:15 a.m., black insurance agent Arthur McDuffie is chased on his motorcycle by Public Safety Department officers who say he ran a red light. He is stopped at North Miami Avenue and 38th Street, and severely beaten in an incident involving at least six white officers. He dies four days later.

Dec. 17: Cmdr. Dale Bowlin, senior officer at Liberty City’s police station, receives a “Use of Force Report” from the officers. “We were not satisfied,” he says.

Dec. 26: Public Safety Director Bobby Jones suspends officers Alex Marrero, Ira Diggs, Michael Watts and Charles Veverka for involvement in McDuffie’s death.

Dec. 27: Officers Herbert Evans, William Hanlon, Mark Meier, Ubaldo DelToro and Francis Mungavin are suspended.

Dec. 28: State Attorney Janet Reno files charges of manslaughter and tampering with evidence against Marrero, Diggs, Watts and Hanlon. Evans is charged with being an accessory after the fact and with evidence-tampering.

Dec. 29: McDuffie is buried.

Jan. 1, 1980: Prosecutors say Veverka and Meier have been granted immunity and will testify for the state.

Jan. 3: Demonstrators protest McDuffie’s death at the Criminal Justice Building.

Feb. 1: Reno files charges of second-degree murder against Marrero. Charges of aggravated battery are added against Diggs, Hanlon and Watts. DelToro is accused of being an accessory after the fact. Marrero is jailed.

Feb. 1: The Public Safety Department fires Marrero, Watts, Hanlon, Diggs, Meier, Veverka, DelToro and Eric Seymen, who was implicated in the cover-up. Mungavin is later suspended for 30 days.

Feb. 29: Defense attorneys request a change of venue for the trial.

March 3: Circuit Judge Lenore Nesbitt moves the case to Tampa. “This case is a time bomb,” she says.

March 28: Nesbitt dismisses two felony charges against Hanlon. Prosecutors drop lesser charges, provide Hanlon with immunity and announce that he will testify for the state.

March 31: Jury selection begins. An all-white jury eventually is chosen.

May 8: Nesbitt orders a directed verdict of acquittal for DelToro.

May 17: The case goes to the jury after almost four weeks of testimony. Two hours 45 minutes later, the jury finds Marrero, Evans, Watts and Diggs not guilty.

May 17: News of the verdict spreads in Miami. About 5 p.m., the first rocks are thrown near African Square Park. By 6 p.m., police pull back and full-scale violence breaks out in Liberty City. A protest rally is quickly organized in front of the Metro Justice complex. Soon, the violence escalates into a full-scale riot. Several police cars are burned; fires are set at government buildings. Scattered looting and fires break out in black communities all over the county. By midnight, five civilians are dead; three severely injured will die in the coming weeks.

May 18: Looting spreads. Gov. Bob Graham mobilizes 1,100 National Guardsmen, 170 Florida Highway Patrol troopers, 75 state wildlife officers and 50 Florida Marine Patrol officers. Nine more people die, either from police actions or in drive-by shootings. Lt. Edward Francis McDermott dies of a heart attack while escorting National Guardsmen. More than 270 people are treated at hospitals. Hundreds of businesses are burned, looted or destroyed.

May 19: Sporadic violence continues. Schools are closed. By evening, calm returns to the streets.

May 21: The estimate of riot damage exceeds $100 million, with at least 18 people killed and more than 400 injured during the violence.

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