CUTLER BAY — Standing outside a South Dade auditorium where a statewide task force was conducting a public hearing on citizen safety, Rubye Mosley pieced together a timeline of tragedy that stems, she says, from a controversial law that has resulted in the death of at least three black South Florida men over an 18-month period.
“My son was first in November 2010; then, just a little over a year later, it was Trayvon,” Mosley said.
Mosley’s son, Akil Larue Oliver, was beaten to death outside a convenience store in the South Miami-Dade community of West Perrine. Two of the family-owned store’s attendants are charged in the death. A hearing, after several delays, is scheduled to take place in early October, Mosley said.
But it was the February death of Trayvon Martin, a Dr. Michael M. Krop High School junior, which led to the formation of the Task Force on Citizen Safety and Protection, a panel appointed by Gov. Rick Scott and headed by Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll. The group held a forum in Palm Beach County on Sept. 12 and in South Dade on Sept. 13.
Trayvon was shot and killed Feb. 13 while on a visit to Sanford, Fla. Scores of rallies in Florida and throughout the nation called for the arrest of Trayvon’s killer, a neighborhood crime watch volunteer who admitted to shooting Trayvon, who was walking home from a convenience store in Sanford.
Citing the 2005 “stand your ground” law or “castle doctrine,” which allows Florida residents to use deadly force when they believe someone is threatening them, George Zimmerman was allowed to go free after being questioned by Sanford police. His release incensed thousands who held rallies and protests throughout the state and the nation.
Among those attending the April 2 Miami rally was Arlene Byrd.
“It could have been my son,” Byrd said at the time. Two months later, it was.
Kijuan Lamar O’Neal, Byrd’s only son, was killed June 1 by a security guard outside Club Rolexx, a north Miami-Dade nightclub. O’Neal, 29, was shot 11 times, twice in the back. As with the Trayvon and Oliver cases, the defense talk was about “standing your ground,” said Byrd, who was among 21 people who addressed the task force last week at the South Miami Dade Cultural Arts Center.
Speakers included state and local lawmakers, members of civic organizations and the clergy and supporters of victims’ families.
Many called for the law to be revoked.
“A change must come,” Byrd said in an emotional statement to the task force. “Who will it be next time? Will it be your child?”
“There are citizens who feel unsafe and unprotected,” said state Rep. Dwight Bullard. He and other legislators faulted the task force for not having a panel member from the Miami Gardens area where Trayvon lived.
Other speakers repeatedly questioned whether the law is being equally applied across racial lines.
“We feel it is a terrible law,” said the Rev. Alfonso Jackson Sr., pastor of Second Baptist Church in Richmond Heights. “It is enforced selectively.”
State Rep. Barbara Watson, along with several other speakers from north Miami-Dade criticized the task force for not conducting a public hearing in their community.
The 17-member panel is scheduled to hold three more hearings around the state before reporting its findings to the governor. Citing time and financial restraints, Carroll said north Miami-Dade will not be added to the venues.
“Our hearts go out to the families,” Carroll said. “Hopefully, the work we do will bring some resolve.”