MIAMI BEACH (CBS4)- Urban Beach Week started off smoothly, but that quickly changed by the end of the long Memorial Day weekend.
One person was killed in a police-involved shooting, four bystanders were shot and locals were shocked by the chaos by the time the weekend was over.
Late Wednesday night, Miami Beach police announced they found a gun inside the deceased man’s car.
“They located a Berretta 92F semi-automatic pistol,” said Miami Beach Police Det. Juan Sanchez. “That gun has been entered into evidence and will undergo ballistic testing.”
Police say ballistic testing will determine if the gun was ever fired during Sunday night’s melee.
After the fatal chaos, local leaders met Wednesday to debate the restrictions that come with Urban Beach Week.
As calls for drastic change to the city’s popular but polarizing – and unofficial – hip-hop street party increase, Miami Beach commissioners discussed the weekend during their monthly meeting. On the agenda: New ways to patrol the city’s annual Memorial Day weekend crowds, which typically reach between 200,000 and 300,000 people.
Commissioners’ proposals include curfews, forcing an early last call for clubs and bars, and eliminating all traffic in the city’s entertainment district.
“It’s time we just admit that we’re not equipped to handle a street festival with no place for people to go,” said Commissioner Deede Weithorn, who said a Saturday night out with police and code enforcement convinced her that the city should shut off traffic on Ocean Drive and Collins and Washington avenues after 10 p.m. during Urban Beach Week.
Business owners, police, activists and residents have been abuzz since early Monday morning, when officers shot and killed the driver of a car that allegedly struck a Hialeah officer, then led police on a three-block chase down Collins Avenue, crashing into cars, running up on the sidewalk and nearly crushing bicycle officers before skidding to a stop at 13th Street.
Commissioner Jerry Libbin, also president and CEO of the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce, has proposed a curfew, according to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald.
And while Mayor Matti Herrera Bower has dismissed that idea as unfeasible, she supports a move to end alcohol sales at bars and clubs earlier than the South Beach standard 5 a.m.
“It’s something that happens by itself. We in the city of Miami Beach do not give any permits that day. And even though it’s called an event, there is no such event,” she said referring to Urban Beach weekend. “I think that’s why it is so hard to control.”
Bower said there’s frustration from all parties.
“I want the residents to understand that we are all frustrated,” she said. “The staff is frustrated, the police is frustrated, the residents are frustrated.”
While commissioners debate what to do about Urban Beach Week, police and prosecutors are flushing out the details of the deadly shooting on Collins Avenue.
A YouTube video that captured the shooting — which led one activist to call South Beach a “warzone” — showed officers approaching the stalled car with guns drawn before unleashing a hail of gunfire into the vehicle. Police did not discover a weapon, but said they are investigating unconfirmed reports that shots came from the car and that passengers were in the vehicle and bailed out.
Four bystanders were shot, and police chief Carlos Noriega acknowledged that they may have been shot by officers.
Prosecutors are reviewing both of Monday’s police-involved shootings, which is standard procedure.
Miami Beach police brass was mum on the shootings Tuesday. They have yet to release the names of any of the 12 officers involved in the shootings, the three injured officers, the slain driver, four wounded bystanders, and the man arrested in the second shooting on Washington Avenue.
Sgt. Alejandro Bello, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, said the dozen officers involved in the shooting acted reasonably.
“I’m confident that my officers and all officers involved acted appropriately,” Bello said. “We’re getting information that this guy was armed or that there was a shooting going on.”
Bello said he plans to lobby Beach politicians to do something about Urban Beach Week and how the event is handled by the city.
“This cannot continue this way,” he said.
Still, Bower says the city doesn’t have much ability to end Urban Beach Week, considering the throngs of tourists who flood Miami Beach’s Art Deco district don’t come for city permitted events, but for private concerts and parties.
“There is very little we can do,” she said, adding that scrutiny from the American Civil Liberties Union — which has called for a transparent and independent investigation into the Collins Avenue shooting — “ties our hands” when it comes to enforcement measures.
Urban Beach Week hit its 10th anniversary this year. Its history has been marked by controversy, including four fatal shootings, allegations of racial profiling and now police bloodshed. This year, police arrested 431 people, up from 382 last year.
Marlon Hill, a lawyer, represents Urban Beach Week promoters and he says they should not be the scapegoats.
“The promoters are only one stakeholder in this tourism economy of ours. The promoters have to work together with the business owners, residents, government officials to create a visitor experience that we can all be proud of,” Hill said.
Terrance Smith, the founder of BlackBeachWeek.com and a main promoter of a number of Memorial Day weekend parties from Jamaica to Cancun, Mexico, said he is conducting an informal poll to see how people feel about Urban Beach Week and the fatal Monday morning shootings. He said he will promote the event again next year if people still are interested.
“I don’t care if the community says end this event,” he said. “If the people are coming and booking hotels, I can’t just stop it.”
And Carlene Sawyer, an ACLU representative who spends time each Memorial Day weekend monitoring the enforcement of South Beach crowds, said it may be shortsighted to let one “horrible” incident mar an otherwise successful event.
“People are calling for the city to close it down and what they’re trying to get is ordinances that would force that,” she said. “But this is a market-driven event.”
Resident Randi Hofer, a South Beach resident, offered some ideas on what could be changed.
“No liquor beyond the point [of leaving a bar] so it helps to get people who are running around with bottles of liquor. When you come across [the causeway] there should be scanners that scan every single license plate for homeland security, if you have a stolen car,” Hofer said.
Click here to read more about the recent South Beach Shooting.
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