The American Civil Liberties Union has called for an independent investigator to look into the killings of seven black men since June by Miami police officers.
The Miami police department is conducting an internal investigation of the officers who shot the men, Baker said. The probe is being conducted by the department’s internal affairs division and is headed by Assistant Chief Jose Seiglie.
Baker, on behalf of the ACLU of Miami, asked the commission to appoint an outside investigator to take over the investigation, such as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Seiglie was the chief supervisor of the tactical unit in 2010, Baker said. “Now he is put in charge of the investigation of the shootings that were done by the very officers that he may have bonded with, was supervising, that he was leading just a few short months ago,” she said.
Any decision Seiglie makes, Baker told the commission, “if it is in favor of finding unsubstantiated claims against any officer, any decision he makes will be looked at as a partial decision because of his past position. He has an inherent conflict of interest.”
The commission made no decision on Baker’s call.
“Everybody wants answers,” Commissioner Frank Carollo said. “They are asking what happened. Unfortunately, the investigations, the answers, are out of the city commissioners’ hands.”
Carollo said that he is requesting all the organizations that are investigating the shootings “do a thorough investigation but at the same time, expedite the investigation so the parents, the families have some closure. That would be the start.”
Commissioner Richard P. Dunn II said that in previous shootings involving the police, Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito was “quick to make a comment. But in this last shooting, there was a space, a dead air space when no one was saying anything. And everybody knows my position on the chief; that has not changed.”
Dunn has called for Expositio to be fired.
Relatives of the men killed by police gave the commission an earful and clashed with Javier Ortiz, vice president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, who said the killings aren’t good… aren’t bad.”
“They are justified and we are confident that our Miami police officers will be cleared. I’ll say it if others haven’t: These are justified shootings, based on the facts that have been brought to my attention,” Ortiz said
“If you are a police officer and someone does not respond to your commands, how would you react to someone making evasive movements which would lead you to believe your life or [someone in] the public is in danger?”
Ortiz said that Miami police officers “are not racists… aren’t murderers.” We are professional police officers that seek to protect the public. The officers were left with no other choice when they used deadly force. Their decision has nothing to do with race, color or creed,” he said.
His remarks did not sit well with relatives of the dead men.
Erin Foster, whose son Brandon, 22, was killed by police on Dec. 16, told the commission, “My son was shot 17 times in the back. He weighed only 120 pounds. What gave them the audacity to shoot my son that many times? How could you sleep at night protecting someone who shot that many times to kill a young black guy?” Foster said.
Arnold Gay, father of Tarnoris Tyrell Gay, who was killed in August, said his son had been jumping over a gate when he was shot. Tarnoris Gay was killed by police in the area of Northwest 14th Avenue and 58th Street in Liberty City.
“How can a policeman say that was putting his life in danger?” Gay said. “I just want to know that. My son was 19.”
Sheila McNeil told the commission that she was “filled with a whole lot of questions and frustrations” about the shooting that took her son’s life and wounded his cousin.
“You know and I know that an ordinary traffic stop, whatever happened that night, should not have resulted in the death of my son and the shooting of my nephew. The boys were unarmed and there were no drugs of any sort found in the vehicle,” she said.
Travis McNeil, 28, was shot on Feb. 10 when he and Kareem Williams, 30, were pulled over at the corner of North Miami Avenue and Northwest 75th Street.
In some of the shootings, McNeil said, the young men “may have had weapons on them but I’m not sure about it. But I know for sure my son did not have a weapon and he was killed sitting inside his vehicle. His hands were on the steering wheel when he died.”
McNeil said that the crime scene was dismantled “too quickly. My son was dead at the scene. I know that. I was told by the doctors that he was killed instantly. But, for some reason, [police] moved his body.”
Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net