Miami Beach

Police shooting fallout: Trigger finger a violation of Miami Beach policy

The straight edge razor wielded by David Winesett before he was shot dead by Miami Beach police on Alton Road Saturday.
The straight edge razor wielded by David Winesett before he was shot dead by Miami Beach police on Alton Road Saturday. Miami Beach Police Department

As David Winesett fell backward after being struck in the chest by a pair of electronic prongs fired from a Taser, a Miami Beach police officer shot him dead with two rounds from his assault rifle.

Videos of Saturday’s police shooting that have been widely circulated show the officer firing his weapon less than a second after another officer fires his Taser. The shooting officer’s finger also appears to be on the rifle’s trigger for a lengthy period of time before he fires.

And that’s against Miami Beach police department policy, a department supervisor told the Miami Herald. The reason is something called sympathetic gunfire, or the discharging of a weapon as a reaction to another weapon being fired. Police officers are typically trained to keep their fingers off the trigger until they are about to shoot, as first reported by CBS4 reporter Jim DeFede. Miami Beach police said they would respond to questions about the incident, including departmental policy, on Wednesday morning.

“Your finger doesn’t enter the trigger guard until the moment you’re ready to shoot,” said Robert Hoelscher, a 78-year-old retired firearms expert who spent 50 years with the Miami-Dade Police Department.

“Everybody’s keyed up. There’s high emotion. You hear the pop of the Taser, and it was almost immediately followed by the two shots,” Hoelscher said.

Miami Beach police also have a Taser policy in place that requires an officer to announce when they are about to fire. There are exceptions, when an officer is sneaking up on a suspect — as the officer who fired the Taser at Winesett appears to be doing from behind a vehicle.

Beach Police Chief Dan Oates said Tuesday that after the videos became public Saturday, someone called Miami-Dade police and threatened the officers without mentioning their names.

“Given the circumstances I have no choice but to take any threat on my officers seriously,” Oates said.

The Saturday morning shooting outside the RazzleDazzle Barbershop during a rain-soaked and busy Art Basel weekend made national headlines because of its timing and because of the clarity of the video captured by a bystander.

In it, several officers are seen surrounding a shirtless Winesett — who had attempted to rob a bank a few minutes before — as he rests his left hand on a vehicle on the side of Alton Road, and waives around a straight razor he had taken from the barbershop a few minutes earlier.

Several people who have studied the video said the shooting could have been avoided. Some law enforcement officials said Beach police had several opportunities to subdue Winesett, a convicted bank robber, before the shooting. They said police blew a chance to enter the barbershop and take control of the situation while Winesett was inside threatening workers and customers, some who were hiding in the back.

Charles Rabin: 305-376-3672, @ChuckRabin

Joey Flechas: 305-376-3602, @joeflech