MIAMI (CBS4) – Members of four of the seven families whose loved ones have been killed by Miami Police protested outside Miami City Hall, saying they wanted to raise awareness about the cases and get answers.
“We’re not going to go away, not until we find out what happened to these young men,” said Sheila McNeil, whose 28-year-old son Travis was the seventh person shot and killed by Miami Police since last July. It happened exactly one month ago.
McNeil met with Police Chief Miguel Exposito last month but he was not able to say why officers stopped her son’s car and why police fired. It happened just blocks away from the “Take One Lounge” near 75th St. and Miami Ave. at 11 p.m. on February 10th. McNeil was with his 30-year-old cousin, Kareem Williams, who was also wounded.
With tears flowing down her face and surrounded by protestors carrying photos of loved ones, Travis’s aunt, Darlene, told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “I just wanted to know what happened to him, because Travis would have done. Just what the officer said. He was not going to do anything to make those officers shoot up a car like they did and drag him out like a dog.”
Exposito promised to thoroughly investigate this case and said officers would be charged if they broke the law. He was not able to say when the investigation would be completed. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office will also investigate the McNeil shooting.
While McNeil met with Exposito on February 23rd, the other families who were at this protest have not.
“I don’t think it would do any good,” said Lynn Cone, the father of 27-year-old Lynn Weatherspoon, who was shot and killed on New Years Eve in Overtown. Police at the time said he was a felon with a long rap sheet who was shot after drawing his pistol on officers.
“They didn’t have to shoot him down like a dog,” said Weatherspoon’s father. “They shot him in the back of his head and in the back. They shot him 8 to 9 times, maybe as much as 20 times. It was overkill. My son didn’t get any justice.”
“Here it is my brother, who was 27, and he tried to run and they shot him down,” said his sister, Celisse Weatherspoon. “That’s wrong.”
Last August, 21-year-old Gibson Junior Belizaire was shot during a gun battle following a domestic call. Police say he fired at them several times after his car stopped and there was a foot chase.
His mother, Julina Belizaire, was also at the protest.
“I just want to know why my son got killed,” she said. “I want to know what’s going on in the community. All people here are brothers and sisters.”
The relatives lead by activists from P.U.L.S.E. took the protest inside Miami Hall, where Commissioners recognized them. They were told they could return next Thursday to address Commissioners about their concerns.
Mayor Tomas Regalado told CBS4 that he welcomed the relatives.
“I think it’s important they were here because this is a people’s house,” said Regalado. “We can assure them that there are many eyes looking at this investigation. I can assure them that whatever is discovered, the city will stand behind.”
The activists called for the dismissal of Police Chief Exposito.
The City Manager has brought in a retired F.B.I. chief to review the department. The City manager could decide the chief’s fate but has promised to study the circumstances before taking action.
McNeil said that she has requested a meeting with Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle. But the investigations could take up to a year. So far, McNeil has not heard from the State Attorney about her request for a meeting.