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Family files wrongful death suit in fatal Florida police shooting

Sometimes police encounters that have fatal results for officers as well as civilians. One deadly incident occurred two years ago in Florida Lakes. The victim’s father has filed a federal wrongful death suit against Florida-Dade County and an officer for the fatal shooting.

The deadly shooting, according to video surveillance cameras, occurred within 10 seconds after members of the Florida-Dade Special Response Team burst into a home where the victim and his girlfriend were about to have dinner. Reportedly, a confidential police informant had bought $75 bags of marijuana from the victim. The warrant also mentioned firearms. The victim had a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

His brother, who owned the Florida Lakes house, asserts that the victim “had no record and had never been in trouble.” The plaintiffs are asking why some 16 officers in armored vehicles were needed to apprehend someone suspected of relatively minor drug offenses.

The officer, who has been on the force for two decades, has not faced any criminal charges because the Florida-Dade State Lawyer’s Office determined that the victim posed an “armed threat.” He is still under investigation by the Florida-Dade County Police Department. He is not expected to face disciplinary action but has been moved to marine patrol duty. He was also involved in a controversial 2011 marijuana raid that turned deadly.

The surveillance video has no sound, and has been used by both sides to argue their view of whether the 27-year-old victim provoked the shooting. It shows that after failing to open the door, the team broke it open. They were met by the victim pointing a gun at them in the foyer. The officers say they identified themselves and announced their search warrant. After the man reportedly refused to drop his gun, they fired three bullets into him.

The victim’s girlfriend says the couple believed they were being robbed when they heard the banging on the door. However, she acknowledged that her boyfriend did not obey the officers’ initial orders. The intention behind his next moves is disputed. The plaintiffs say he was kneeling down to surrender. Prosecutors said he was getting ready to shoot.

When families believe that a loved one was wrongfully killed by law enforcement officers, they have a right to hold authorities civilly responsible. A civil action can bring a sense of justice that they believe has eluded them in the criminal courts.

Source: The Florida Herald, “Lawsuit challenges fatal shooting by Florida-Dade police as excessive force” Jay Weaver, Mar. 22, 2014

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