Parsing the Memorial Day shooting in South Beach

By | June 5th, 2011 | 12 Comments
Photo from Miami Beach anti-Urban Beach Week rally

On Friday, Miami Beach residents held an anti-Urban Beach Week rally in front of City Hall.

As more details have come out about the police shooting on Memorial Day in South Beach, the story has become infinitely more complicated. What we know for sure is that 12 police officers fired more than 100 rounds at a black 22-year-old from Boynton Beach named Raymond Herisse, who died on the scene. According to police, Herisse had been recklessly driving down Collins Avenue in his blue Hyundai and hit at least one cop. Police shot him dead in his vehicle and, in the process, may have shot a Tallahassee man named Cedrick Perkins in the chest. (There is no question that Perkins got shot — a bullet is still lodged in his chest. “May” refers to whether the police put it there. The shooting is under investigation.) In the aftermath of the Herisse shooting, many Miami Beach residents have called for the end of Urban Beach Week, an annual event that attracts more than 200,000 young, black tourists to the city every year for Memorial Day weekend.

Ok. That’s where we stand at 1:36 a.m. on June 5. It’s a lot to process and even after you do, there’s a lot to chew on. Here are three morsels I’m still gnawing at.

1. Urban = black

This leads off the list because, despite rhyming signs to the contrary, race is the crucial factor in the debate over Urban Beach Week (aka Black Beach Week). This is obvious to anyone who so much as skims the comments on the Herald’s various articles dealing with the shooting. Here’s one:

The great thing about America is that what is rightfully yours, is whatever you earned. Therefore, the Chinese, Hindus, Sikhs, and just about every other immigrant population have gained what is “rightfully theirs”. And blacks, alas languish in resentment of the slave mentality, still waiting for Whites to give them a sense of self value along with a handout. — CypressCreekAve

However ignorant (the Sikhs?), CypressCreekAve at least tackles the race component of this issue, which is more than I can say for Miami Beach Mayor Hatti Bower.

“[UBW] is the result of years of independent promotions on radio, the Internet, and other media, urging a largely young, urban crowd to come to Miami Beach for a fun party weekend,” she wrote in the Herald on Saturday (emphasis added).

I know race is a touchy subject — one most politicians avoid like skittish kittens — but WTF does “urban” mean in this context if not “black”? Merriam-Webster defines the word as “of, related to, characteristic of, or constituting a city”, but does anyone believe for a second Bower meant it that way? A commenter with the pseudonym FortyfiveAutomatic certainly doesn’t:

“Look Ms Bower, I know that these ‘I hate to see so many black people at one time’ people are putting the pressure on you, but don’t write crap like this that insults black people’s intelligence … ”

Bower deserves chastisement for resorting to such weak language when this situation requires strong leadership. If she can’t bring herself to utter the word “black”, can we depend on her to deal with something so volatile?

2. What took so long to find the gun?

The shooting takes place Monday at 4 a.m. Police do not report finding a gun in Herisse’s car until Wednesday night. They do not report where they found the gun — on the “floorboard behind driver’s seat,” according to David Smiley, the Herald reporter covering the story — until Saturday afternoon.

The delay here is odd since a lot of people immediately speculated that the police had fired more than 100 rounds at an unarmed black man, and this speculation reportedly worried the Head Honcho. In one of his articles, Smiley said Miami Beach Police Chief Carlos Noriega was “concerned about the publicity surrounding the shooting” and that he “called the gun’s discovery ‘great news.'” From the same article:

“It took police several days to find the weapon because it was out of sight, Noriega said. Investigators first had focused on processing the crime scenes and on talking to witnesses, he said.”

Police fire more than 100 rounds at a 22-year-old and then dilly-dally in producing the weapon that ostensibly justifies the barrage? Wouldn’t they want to preempt the proliferation of conspiracy theories by producing the gun immediately? Wouldn’t that be high on the to-do list?

One would think.

N.B. Police have yet to confirm that Herisse fired the gun they found. “Ballistics tests … could take weeks,” Smiley reported on June 2.

3. Police allegedly drew guns on witnesses and attempted to destroy evidence

Update: Scratch “allegedly”. A video of a police officer pointing a gun at a witness is in the process of going viral.

The same article linked to above reports that a 35-year-old car-stereo technician named Narces Benoit took video of the shooting with his cell phone and, as a consequence, got a police officer’s gun shoved in his face. An excerpt:

The video shows Benoit get into the car, where his girlfriend, Ericka Davis, sat in the driver’s seat. He raises his camera and an officer is seen appearing on the driver’s side with his gun drawn, pointed at them.

The video ends as more officers are heard yelling expletives, telling the couple to turn the video off and get out of the car.

“They put guns to our heads and threw us on the ground,” Davis said.

Benoit said a Miami Beach officer grabbed his cell phone, said “You want to be [expletive] Paparazzi?” and stomped on his phone before placing him in handcuffs and shoving the crunched phone in Benoit’s back pocket.

This is not a side story. I understand that the police officers were under a lot of pressure and I can sympathize with a certain degree of aggressive defensiveness on their part. But pulling a gun on an innocent witness because he has a definitive record of the FUBAR incident that just took place — a record that could possibly exonerate the cops from all wrongdoing as well as implicate them in an unwarranted killing — and destroying that record is unacceptable.

Actually, it’s criminal.

By the way, I should say “attempting to destroy that record,” since Benoit reportedly managed to hide his cell phone’s memory card in his mouth for the length of an entire recorded interview at police headquarters. He is now considering selling the video to a website, which is, yes, scummy but also a potential victory for transparency in what has become a very murky case.

*

So that’s what’ I’m mulling over roughly six days after the shooting. I’m sure new details will come out in the coming days, and equally sure they will do as much to obscure the story as clarify it. In the meantime, we’ll have to keep chewing the fat.

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12 Comments on “Parsing the Memorial Day shooting in South Beach”

  1. 1 Taylor said at 3:07 am on June 5th, 2011:

    Great post. Thanks for getting all this information into one spot for me.

  2. 2 Leah said at 10:33 am on June 5th, 2011:

    Yup, lots of suspicion around this incident. Thanks for posting.

  3. 3 Revulu said at 11:06 am on June 5th, 2011:

    If the guy hid the memory card in his mouth all that time under those conditions, he deserves to be paid

    its not scummy

  4. 4 Jordan Melnick said at 11:19 am on June 5th, 2011:

    @Revulu I’d prefer the truth reach us by means other than a business transaction. But I’m not hung up on it.

  5. 5 anonymous said at 6:44 pm on June 5th, 2011:

    There are no innocent people that weekend except the locals!

  6. 6 chris said at 11:40 am on June 6th, 2011:

    i guess when you leave a stupid comment like that it’s best to post as anonymous.

  7. 7 SRex said at 11:01 pm on June 6th, 2011:

    Someone in law enforcement told me if the perp was apprehended or shot outside of the vehicle (and not within reach), then the law says that the po must obtain a warrant to search the car, unless the weapon is “in plain view.”

  8. 8 Jordan Melnick said at 7:51 pm on June 7th, 2011:

    Scratch “allegedly”: http://www.cnn.com/2011/CRIME/06/07/florida.shooting.witness/index.html?hpt=hp_t2

  9. 9 Dont worry said at 8:42 pm on June 15th, 2011:

    Wow you people do not know miami! I live here and been getting abused by police officers and undercovers/detectives since i was 13 why you think they don’t gota worry just because they a cop? How many shots it take to kill a man in a completely stopped vehicle? And then shoot someone else too? All them should be locked up!

  10. 10 Ms Kitty Gray said at 6:46 pm on June 23rd, 2011:

    I go to Black Beach Week every other year, and I love it. It’s a great atmosphere normally. One difference that I noticed this year is that the cops were extremely rude and disrespectful. They didn’t care if you were male or female; walking or driving, they were rude. A cop actually called one of my homegirls a black bitch for nothing but getting out of a cab in front of them…. I definitely feel like they were told to “crack the whip”, “take no shit”, or even “get rid of these ni@@ers!” The videos of this so-called shoot out should clearly show the man was not speeding on some car chase nor did he shoot at the police once the car stopped. But the media is intent on spinning it another way…. Just makes me mad that after so many years everytime black people get together to have a lil recreation we are persecuted this way. And you got people saying this man deserved this…. I’m totally disgusted, but I say we don’t let them ruin our party. Miami Beach 2012, HERE I COME!

  11. 11 Jeff said at 1:07 pm on October 8th, 2011:

    Finally an Un biased article looking at the real Truth. Something very strange was going on down there with those police. Still no info from the investigation about the shootings. Police officers should be getting fired for there action that weekend.

    But hey, they can just switch the blame on the Entire events.

  12. 12 Urban Beach Week Support said at 4:20 am on November 1st, 2011:

    Great Article and in-depth look at the event for an unbias standpoint. There was a lot going on that night, and emotions were high.

    I hope residents and police realize that Raymond Herisse was not a representation of Urban Beach Week as a whole. And the situation around the shooting is very complicated. You had a local criminal committing crimes year round, and not your typical Attendee who travel from other states or countries.

    Urban Beach Week participants want to be as safe as residents.


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