The father of a Miami man suspected of dealing marijuana – who was killed by police officers entering his home – is suing the police department, claiming that an officer used excessive force during the brief and fatal encounter with his son.
Two armored Miami-Dade police vehicles arrived at the home of 27-year-old Michael Santana and his 21-year-old girlfriend, Brittany Retkofsky, in Miami Lakes two years ago, according to the Miami Herald. Sixteen officers poured out and stormed the house with a warrant to search. Within 10 seconds, the lead officer, who was carrying a bulletproof shield, had killed Santana. Santana was carrying a pistol; feeling threatened, the officer fired three shots.
“My brother had no record and had never been in trouble,” said Eric Santana, the victim’s brother and the owner of the home. “I think it was a complete violation of what we should expect from our police. Any of us should be scared of something like that coming through our front door.”
Video footage shows the officers trying the doorknob and then using a crowbar and a sledgehammer to force open the door. Santana’s girlfriend recalls thinking the house was being robbed. The officers then claimed they yelled, “Miami-Dade police,” and “Search warrant,” but no audio was recorded on the home surveillance footage.
Santana, a lawful concealed-weapons holder, reached for his gun. He rushed past Retkofsky to the foyer, and within 10 seconds he was dead in front of her eyes.
Santana’s father is suing Miami-Dade county and German Alech, the officer who killed his son, alleging wrongful death and civil rights violations in a federal complaint.
Prosecutors note that Santana first refused to drop his gun, and insist that his crouch was meant as a position to shoot at the other officers. The lawsuit maintains that Santana complied and “began to lower his body to get on his knees to surrender.”
The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office has already ruled the death “legally justified” after conducting an investigation. Alech is expected to be cleared in the police department’s own internal investigation. The department is reviewing a prosecutors’ report that called the incident “disturbing.”
“Upon completion of this review, the department will take the necessary steps to address any immediate concerns,” Miami-Dade Police Director J.D. Patterson said in a statement. “The department is obligated to conduct an administrative review that will result in a thorough assessment of the events that transpired so we may continue to move forward as a professional organization.”
Sources: Miami Herald