A Florida woman is seeking answers from the North Miami Beach Police Department after she showed up at a shooting range Saturday morning to discover department snipers had used an old arrest photo of her brother for target practice.
WTVJ News reports Sgt. Valerie Deant of the Florida Army National Guard arrived at the range for her annual weapons qualification shortly after the police snipers had finished a practice session.
Among the targets the police had used was an array of six photographs. One of the photos was a 15-year-old mug shot of her brother, Woody Deant, who had been arrested and eventually served time in prison for taking part in a drag race that left two people dead.
“I was like, ‘Why is my brother being used for target practice?’” she said in a recent interview. “There were like gunshots there. And I cried a couple of times.”
“The picture actually has like bullet holes,” Woody Deant said. “One in my forehead and one in my eye. …I was speechless.”
Woody Deant said he is troubled by the incident because it makes him feel like he is still a criminal despite having turned his life around.
Some now say that what the police did amounts to racial profiling. The department says the use of the photos was just part of a facial recognition drill.
“This can create a very dangerous situation,” said Andell Brown, an attorney who has been hired by the Deants. “And it has been ingrained in your subconscious what does that mean when someone [police] comes across Woody or another person on the street and their decision-making process on using deadly force or not.”
Major Kathy Katerman with the North Miami Beach Police Department disputes the claim.
“The public thinks there should be one woman and one white man and one black, but that's not really what the test is about,” Katerman told The Huffington Post. “We have targets of all races.”
But Alex Vasquez, a retired FBI agent, said the department has plenty of other targets available without having to use old arrest photos.
“The use of those targets doesn’t seem correct,” he said. “The police have different options for targets. I think the police have to be extra careful and sensitive to some issues that might be raised.”
Police Chief Scott Dennis maintains that the officers in question did not violate any department policy and said they will not be disciplined.
The department often uses photographs for targets, he said, the mistake came in using the photograph of someone arrested by his agency.
“That individual would be someone that was on the streets of North Miami Beach,” Dennis said.
WTVJ News surveyed federal and state law enforcement agencies as well as five local police departments with sniper and SWAT teams and all said they use commercially available paper targets, not photographs of human beings, for target practice.