MIAMI — Relatives of some of the seven men killed by Miami police since last July are denouncing as “false” a report based on a preliminary investigation into the shootings that took their lives.
The report was compiled by law enforcement and management consultant Paul R. Philip, a former FBI agent, and presented at a meeting hosted by the city of Miami Community Relations Board (CRB) on Tuesday at the Culmer Community Service Center in Overtown.
Miami city manager Tony E. Crapp Jr. tapped Philip to investigate the surge of police-involved shootings under the watch of Police Chief Miguel Exposito.
Exposito was not present at the meeting.
On the most recent killing – that of Travis McNeil, 28, on Feb. 10, the report said “a Miami police officer participating in a joint operation with U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement on North Miami Avenue and 75th Street discharged his weapon as a result of a confrontation which ensued after a traffic stop.”
McNeil’s mother, Sheila McNeil, denounced that assertion as “false and an insult.” She maintained that her son was shot while sitting unarmed in his car, along with his cousin, Kareem Williams, 30, after they were pulled over by police.
“You say that it was a confrontation but that’s not true,” McNeil told Philip. “Travis was approached by nine officers and only one did the shooting. How was he a threat? And you will never get the facts from the police.”
It was “unfair to come to us with this type of false information when we know better,” she said.
When the cousins were pulled over by police, they were boxed in, said a family supporter who asked to remain anonymous.
“One police car was behind them and two cars approached them head-on. They [police officers] got out of their vehicle and opened fire on the car Travis was driving. There could not have been a confrontation,” the person said.
Philip responded that the information in the report “is presented to you as it’s presented to me.”
“Of course it will be examined,” Philip said. “If you are saying firing the chief is going to stop the killings, I'm saying you are wrong.”
Philip’s report also focused on the killing of Gibson Junior Belizaire, 21, on Aug. 14. The report said police were summoned to a “violent domestic incident involving an armed suspect.” Belizaire, the report continued, “fled the scene in an older model Jaguar. Officers stopped the vehicle at Northwest Second Avenue and 62nd Street. The subject exited the vehicle shooting at police and then fled on foot as police returned fire.”
Belizaire later died at Jackson Memorial Hospital.
His sister Linda Belizaire said the same officers were involved in four of the seven fatal shootings, “and something is not right. I don’t want condolences, I want answers.”
The status of both investigations is “pending,” according to the report.
Philip said the information in his report came from police reports and indicated a sample that was “too small to jump to any conclusions.”
“The bottom line is that the State Attorney’s Office is going to come out with a report on each of these cases individually to determine whether these shootings were justified or not. After that, the Department of Justice will conduct another one,” Philip said.
But he conceded that “there are other issues that I have not yet addressed that are coming forward. This is an attempt to give you what we have now.”
Lyle Muhammad of Overtown responded that the report was merely an attempt to save Exposito’s job, adding, “And that is pathetic.”
Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net
Pictured Above: Miami city manager Tony Crapp, Jr.