MIAMI — Emotions ran high during a town hall meeting this week to discuss the fatal shooting of an Overtown man by a Miami rookie police officer.
While acknowledging the need for answers, city officials, community leaders, residents and the victim’s family all called for peace at the gathering on Tuesday, July 6.
Over 170 people packed into the fellowship hall at Overtown’s Historic St. John Institutional Missionary Baptist Church to determine why 36-year-old DeCarlos Moore lost his life during a traffic stop.
“His voice has been silenced forever. He cannot speak for himself right now, but if he could, he would say, ‘Mr. Mayor, give me justice…Police Chief give me justice. His blood cries out from the street,’” said Moore’s cousin, Charles Jackson.
Brian Dennis, executive director of Brothers of the Same Mind, was more blunt. The organization assists ex-felons with finding employment and successfully re-entering society after incarceration.
“[The officer] should be charged with murder,” said Dennis, who recommended that police cars in Miami be fitted with dash cams as they are in other cities.
But Fraternal Order of Police president Armando Aguilar has stated publicly that the shooting was 100 percent justified.
“They’re supposed to say that,” Dennis told the South Florida Times of the union’s duty to support its officers. “That is what they’re going to say to justify whatever he’s done.”
Dennis questioned why a rookie police officer, fresh out of the academy, would be assigned to patrol Overtown. Officer Joseph Marin has been on duty for four months, following 14 years of service with the U.S. Army.
Published reports have stated that the officer shot Moore because he thought the man was reaching for a gun, and that afterwards he was heard saying, “Oh my God,” several times.
“If you’re a rookie officer and you’re that nervous, you don’t need to be around here,” Dennis said. “You don’t need to be in the middle of our community.”
Despite what he called a blatant murder, Dennis said he expects calm to prevail in the community because of lessons learned from the 1980 riots that killed 18 people and destroyed Liberty City. In that case, officers were acquitted by an all-white jury in the murder of black insurance salesman Arthur McDuffie.
“One of the things that I explained [at the meeting,] we do the Arthur McDuffie candlelight vigil every year, and we still haven’t found out where the McDuffie money went,” he said of funds designated to replenish the area after several businesses were demolished in the violence.
Dennis said the community cannot afford to destroy itself.
“What’s the purpose of tearing up your own community when we really don’t have anything in there anyway?” he asked.
In addition to their desire for justice, Jackson said he and his family want everyone to remain calm, and let the investigation take its course.
“We’re a God-fearing, loving family and we don’t want any violence. We want the process. We believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and He will give justice,” Jackson continued.
Miami City Commissioner Richard P. Dunn echoed those thoughts.
“I’m asking, I’m pleading, I’m praying for calm. I’m asking, I’m pleading, I’m praying for patience. I’m asking, I’m pleading, I’m praying for peace,” Dunn said.
Moore was fatally shot by Marin around mid-day on Monday, July 5 after his car was mistakenly identified as a stolen vehicle.
According to sources, Marin was with training officer Viona Browne when they ordered Moore out of the car and asked him to come toward them. Moore reportedly obeyed, then turned around and hurried back to the car to reach inside for something.
After Moore emerged from the car with what was later determined to be sunglasses in his hands, Marin fired, shooting Moore in the head. Moore has a criminal history, having served 14 years behind bars for second-degree murder. Sources say no weapon was found in Moore's car.
Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito told reporters outside the town hall meeting that the family and community would get a complete investigation.
When asked what young black men should do to save their lives when stopped by the police, Dennis sighed and said,
“The only thing they can do is follow instructions, and don’t put themselves in [a dangerous] position in case they have an overzealous officer.”
Dennis said the family is in the process of planning Moore’s funeral.
South Florida Times Associate Editor Renee Michelle Harris contributed to this story.