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Miami Beach Faces Memorial Day Shooting Lawsuits

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Art Deco buildings grace the famous Ocean Drive.  (Source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Art Deco buildings grace the famous Ocean Drive. (Source: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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MIAMI BEACH (CBSMiami) — Miami Beach is expecting to see an influx of people for Memorial Day weekend starting Thursday. Some 350,000 people are expected to flood the beach for a weekend of beachside parties and holiday fun.

The Miami Beach Police Department is beefing up security, while the city faces a lawsuit for negligence stemming from last year’s highly-publicized shooting that left one person dead and four others hit in the chaos.

The shooting took place around 4 a.m. on May 30, after police say Raymond Herisse tried to hit them with his car. Police said they thought he was armed and dangerous. Cops opened fire near 14th St. and Collins Ave., in a barrage of bullets captured on camera and posted on YouTube, which was then repeatedly played on TV newscasts.

Records show police fired more than 115 rounds. Herisse was killed.

Two bullets hit 25-year-old Sarah Garcia from Naples. She ended up in a wheelchair for months and hasn’t been able to return to her job. She filed the negligence suit against the city.

Thursday, another lawsuit is expected to filed by four other victims of the shooting. They joined together to file a public-records lawsuit demanding ballistics results and other key evidence. The lawsuit accuses the agencies involved of deliberately withholding the records in an effort to cover up responsibility.

The plaintiffs want to know whether a gun found in Herisse’s car was ever fired.

In the year since the shooting, police haven’t released any records about who fired the shots that hit the bystanders.

The Miami Beach Police Department is investigating the incident, which involved seven officers from Miami Beach and four from Hialeah. The department has turned evidence over to the state attorney’s office, which will decide whether the officers should be criminally prosecuted.

The plaintiffs, all of whom say they sustained permanent injuries, ultimately want compensation for their medical bills, pain and suffering.

Meantime, the city is working to make sure this weekend’s Memorial Day festivities remain fun and safe for everyone while launching the most aggressive crowd control plan ever done.

It includes the use of 600 officers, a DUI checkpoint entering the beach and scanning every license plate pulling onto the island.

The moves have drawn criticism that the beach will become a police state, unlike any other major event that they have had.

Miami Beach police expect to arrest as many as 2,000 people this weekend. It’s not a quota, said Police Chief Raymond Martinez, it’s simply a higher number than usual due to the stricter rules this year.

Miami Beach wants to minimize the impact for residents so certain streets will be open for local residents only.

Those road closures start Friday May 25th and will remain closed until Tuesday May 29th.

Here is the list of road closures:

  • Ocean Drive will be shut down to vehicular traffic from 5th to 15th Street from 7:00 a.m. Friday to 7:00 a.m. Tuesday.
  • Collins Avenue will be northbound traffic only between 5th to 15th Street from 7:00 a.m. Friday to 7:00 a.m. Tuesday.
  • Washington Avenue will be southbound traffic only between 5th to 15th Street from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights.
  • Proof of Residency will be required to enter the following residential areas:
  • North of 5th Street to Lincoln Road from Washington Avenue west to Alton Road
  • South of 5th Street to Government Cut
  • Dade Blvd to 41st Street and Pine Tree Drive

A Traffic Loop will be activated Friday through Sunday from 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. The Traffic Loop will send traffic north on Collins Avenue and South on Washington Avenue. Ocean Drive will be completely closed off to vehicular traffic.

Proof of residency will be required to enter the residential areas north of 5th Street – 11th Street from Washington Avenue west to Alton Road.

A DUI check point will be operational from Friday night-Saturday morning. There will be DUI saturation and enforcement throughout the remainder of the weekend.

The police department is also erecting 4 surveillance towers with video equipment where officers can rewind and view video. The cameras, which can see up to a mile, will be perched on four towers stationed in Lummus Park, on Collins Avenue and on the east end of the Lincoln Road Mall.

Police will also be using license tag readers for the first time along the Julia Tuttle and MacArthur Causeways, checking for expired registration, stolen vehicles and wanted vehicles. Vehicles with tags that kick back violations to police will be stopped.

Pairs of police will be stationed up and down Fifth Street, Ocean Drive, Collins and Washington Avenues.

The Venetian Causeway will be open only to Miami and Miami Beach residents, although restricted access will be based on the honor system.

The City will also continue using Goodwill Ambassadors. The program was started more than a decade ago, after the huge crowds attracted by what was then known as “Hip Hop Weekend” angered and intimidated residents, and led to what many called excessive police response and hundreds of arrests.

Goodwill Ambassadors, all wearing red shirts, assist with crowd control issues, distribute courtesy litterbags and safety brochures, report service issues that need immediate attention and answer visitors’ questions.

Police say they hope the new tactics and equipment will control the crowds that come to town not just for club events but for the jam-packed, non-sanctioned street parties on Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue that have come to define the weekend since 2001.

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