MIAMI (CBS4) – By some accounts it was typical police work. A gang task force going after the bad guys.
Things changed though when a homeowner keeled over from a heart attack. By the time police called fire rescue for 50-year-old Othello Russell, he was dead. It is a story CBS Miami partner The Miami Herald first broke. CBS4′s David Sutta questions why the police were there in the first place.
On Thursday, July 25th in Brownsville, the Russell brothers were sitting in their front yard with their neighbor when suddenly the Miami-Dade’s Gang Task Force swarmed their driveway.
Charles Russell was confused.
“When the first came they was talking about ‘where is the hand grenades?’ Who the hell, we didn’t have no hand grenades. We are not military,” Russell explained to CBS4.
Othello Russell was headed toward his door when all the commotion started, according to Charles, when an officer stopped him in his tracks.
Catherine Jones, their neighbor, was standing right next to Othello.
“I heard him say ‘no I don’t give you permission to search my house’. I was standing right next to him like we are standing here. It was a black cop. In the meantime a jump-out boy, the one with the mask on went to the door, the screen was closed, he peeked inside and said ‘I see a joint. A marijuana. Does that give me probable cause?’ And the black man said ‘yeah’”
Officers went in and they found handguns. The Russell brothers with checkered pasts were going to be arrested.
Suddenly, Othello fell over right inside his doorway.
“They came outside and asked me do you think he’s faking?” Charles recalled.
It turns out – he wasn’t faking it.
“They scared him to death. He was so scared it made him have a heart attack. That’s what I think. Had they never came he would still be here. They didn’t have a reason to come here. We don’t sell dope.” Charles said.
Why were the cops there? It’s really unclear. In the end it turned out the only warrant on the house was one written a day later – to investigate Othello’s death.
And the marijuana joint that led to the search? Never found.
Criminal Attorney Ed Shohat finds it all questionable.
“I think the police have problems in this case,” Shohat said. “It sounds like it is entirely possible, although the police 99% of the time do tremendous work and honest work, it sounds a bit contrived.”
Shohat believes the Russell brothers may have a case to throw their case out.
“I believe just on the limited facts that I’ve heard so far that a motion to suppress is in order,” Shohat summarized.
Meanwhile, the Police Benevolent Union counters everything was done legally.
“My understanding is there was a consent to search and I think all the reports on file that they had every reason to be there.” union president John Rivera said.
If probable cause was faked, Rivera said an investigation would bring that forward. At this point though he believed no wrong doing had been done.
Charles Russell disagrees.
“He told them no. That should have stopped him right there.” he said.
David Russell, Charlie’s little brother, is in Miami-Dade Jail. He was arrested on a firearm charge.