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Families Of Miami Police Shootings Get Their Say

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MIAMI (CBS4) – Family members of seven men whose loved ones have been killed by Miami Police officers will have their voices heard at Thursday’s City of Miami Commission meeting.

Those family members and community activists are expected to air their concerns at the meeting. Some claim officers are too aggressive and often too prone to shoot.

Police Chief Miguel Exposito says the confrontations have resulted from a crackdown on violent crime on inner-city neighborhoods long plagued by drugs, gangs and murders. Exposito says in most cases officers are protecting their own lives or the lives of others.

Over a seven-month period between July 2010 and February of this year, Miami police have shot and killed seven African-American men, at least two of whom were unarmed. The series of shootings created new tensions in the Overtown, Little Haiti, and Liberty City neighborhoods, and caused a political firestorm at City Hall.

Mayor Tomas Regalado, Commissioner Richard Dunn and family members of the deceased have asked for Chief Exposito’s resignation. The City Manager also brought in retired F.B.I. chief Paul Philip to review Exposito’s job performance and police department policy.

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson has asked the U.S. Justice Department to open a civil rights probe. Wilson is concerned that black suspects are treated with greater violence than those of other races. A civilian police oversight panel is also battling with the chief over information on the investigation of the first shooting victim, DeCarlos Moore. The panel was refused its records request because the case “is still an open police investigation.”

DeCarlos Moore was shot and killed July 5, 2010. The police union called the shooting justified. They said Moore disobeyed an order not to return to his vehicle. When he rushed back to his car to retrieve something, rookie Miami Police Officer Joseph Marin thought it was a gun. Marin shot and killed Moore. No weapon was found on Moore.

27-year-old Lynn Weatherspoon was shot and killed on New Year’s 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.

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.

Travis McNeil, 28, was the seventh person shot and killed. 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. McNeil was shot as he reached for something in his car during a traffic stop. No weapon was found on McNeil.

City Manager Tony Crapp Jr., the man who will ultimately decide Exposito’s future, said he plans to meet Paul Philip on Friday to get an update on his findings. Crapp has remained tight-lipped on his plans for the chief.

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