MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The family of a Boynton Beach man who died in a hail of police gunfire on Miami Beach two years ago over Memorial Day weekend filed a wrongful death suit against Miami Beach and cities whose police officers were involved in shooting.
The shooting took place around 4 a.m. on May 30th, 2011. Police said Ray Herisse, 22, was driving erratically and tried to hit an officer with his car on a crowded Collins Avenue when they tried to pull him over.
“There was an indication he may have been driving under the influence. But if it is Miami beach’s policy and Hialeah’s policy to execute people in Miami Beach while we have a festival in town for driving under the influence, we are going to have a whole lot of dead tourists here,” according to Marwan Porter who is representing Herisse’s mother, Marceline Azor.
“My son was like a baby. I don’t know why they killed my son,” Azor cried out on Tuesday.
Herisse’s older sister, Charline, said she and her family just want justice. “We want them to be able to apologize and let us know what really happened because it is unfair. We are unable to heal. We need answers, just something from them.”
Police said they thought Herisse was armed and dangerous. A dozen officers opened fire on Herisse’s car near 14th St. and Collins Ave., in a barrage of bullets captured on camera and posted on YouTube.
Records show police fired more than 115 rounds. Herisse was shot 16 times, according to the Medical Examiner’s report released earlier this month, and died on the scene.
Four bystanders were also wounded in the shooting.
Initially, there were questions as to whether Herisse shot out of his vehicle at officers, which is what the governmental entities implied, according to Marwan Porter who is representing Herisse’s mother
“It’s been a very frustrating, agonizing two years,” said Porter. “As you know we had to file a lawsuit just to get basic information.”
Police found a gun hidden in Herisse’s blue, bullet-ridden Hyundai. However, a Miami-Dade Police’s forensics lab found that Herisse did not test positive for gunpowder residue which means he did not fire the weapon.
Miami Beach Police Department stonewalled the family’s request for details of Herisse’s killing and fought the release of any information related to the killing for nearly two years, according to Porter. He was only able to obtain copies of the autopsy report and several other documents related to the shooting by filing a public records lawsuit on behalf of the family.
Herisse’s family claims when police opened fire, Herisse’s had stopped the car and was not a threat.
“He did stop his vehicle and officers shot at him after his car was in a stationary position,” said Porter. “They coincidentally found a gun in his car three days later.”
They also reportedly feel that given the number of people on the street at the time of the shooting, the 12 officers who fired their weapons acted recklessly. They point to the four bystanders who were shot.
Miami lawyer L. Elijah Stiers, who represents wounded bystander Carlson Saint Louis, said the gunshot residue test was important in knocking down any notion that Herisse fired the bullets that hit people in the crowd.
Police said the criminal probe into the shooting is ongoing.
Miami-Dade prosecutors are awaiting the final report from the lead homicide investigator before deciding whether the officers were justified in using lethal force.
When asked for comments from representatives from the City of Miami Beach and Hialeah, they declined because the investigation is open.
With Memorial Day weekend around the corner, Herisee’s older sister offered this reminder, not to tourists, but to the officers who will be policing them.
“It is a young crowd,” said Charline Herisse. “You have to be prepared. You can’t just take out your guns and start shooting. We are people just like you.”