Miami Police Kill Man, Attempt to Destroy Video Evidence

| by Reason Foundation

Miami Police shot up a vehicle and its occupant in the middle of a crowded neighborhood last Memorial Day weekend because they thought the driver was armed. Police chased Raymond Herisse to a stretch of Collins Street at 4 a.m., where more than a dozen officers unloaded their clips into Herisse's parked car (and Herisse). 

However, it's what Miami PD did after shooting Herisse that's got the department up against the wall.

Several people filmed the incident, one of them being West Palm Beach resident Narces Benoit, who captured the entire episode with his cell phone:

show http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RXpMzT5yGp8

From the video: When the cops notice Benoit filming, they demand that he stop. Benoit puts his phone down by his side and returns to his car. As he's walking, he repeatedly says that he's filming the police and not doing anything wrong. The area is well lit, and Benoit isn't the only person filming. He is, however, the only person ignoring police commands to stop filming. 

The next time Benoit raises the camera, it’s to capture an adrenaline-fueled and agitated-looking Miami police officer circling his Ford Expedition, pointing a gun through the windows at Benoit and his girlfriend. Pretty soon, cops swarm the car and force Benoit and his girlfriend to exit the vehicle. 

Benoit’s girlfriend told the Miami Herald that police then “put guns to our heads and threw us on the ground.” According to Benoit, one officer handcuffed him, grabbed his phone, “smashed” it on the ground, and then put it back in Benoit’s pocket.

A week later, Miami PD is denying not that an officer took Benoit’s phone for no legally justifiable reason, and not that Benoit was arrested despite having done nothing wrong, but that the officer “smashed” Benoit’s phone:

[A]n unsigned statement issued late Tuesday by a city spokeswoman took issue with Benoit’s statements. The statement said police stopped him not because he was filming but because he matched the description of a man seen fleeing the shooting scene, and that he ignored officers’ demands to stop. He was taken in for questioning as a witness, the statement said.

The statement also questioned Benoit’s account that an officer “smashed” his phone — the city e-mailed photos of the phone’s front and back showing only small cracks on the lower right front screen — and said Benoit didn’t turn over a copy of the video until he was served with a subpoena.

“This damage does not appear consistent with Mr. Benoit’s statements to the media that his phone was ‘smashed,’ ” the statement said.

The statement added that several other cellphones were seized by police during the investigation. Benoit’s allegations — coupled with a WPLG-ABC 10 report that an officer temporarily seized one of its video cameras after the fatal shooting of Raymond Herisse — have spurred criticism from photojournalists and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Reason.tv on the war on cameras: