City of Miami Beach: Seeing is not believing

By | June 8th, 2011 | 6 Comments
Cathy Vivarttas

Boynton Beach resident Cathy Vivarttas lived next door to Raymond Herisse, who was shot to death by police on Memorial Day morning. -- photo by Liam Crotty

You may have seen the video of police shooting Raymond Herisse in South Beach on Memorial Day morning (embedded after the jump). Captured by Narces Benoit and sold to CNN, the cell phone footage shows the controversial shooting and its aftermath, in which a police officer points a gun at Benoit as the 35-year-old car-stereo technician from West Palm Beach attempts to drive away. It’s a chaotic scene with police sirens blaring and Benoit and his companion screaming in fear just before the footage ends.

Despite the video, which has more than 200,000 views on YouTube, Miami Beach officials have challenged Benoit’s claim that the police held him at gunpoint and later tried to confiscate and destroy his cell phone, according to the Herald.

[A]n unsigned statement issued late Tuesday by a city spokeswoman took issue with Benoit’s statements. The statement said police stopped him not because he was filming but because he matched the description of a man seen fleeing the shooting scene, and that he ignored officers’ demands to stop. He was taken in for questioning as a witness, the statement said.

The statement also questioned Benoit’s account that an officer “smashed” his phone — the city e-mailed photos of the phone’s front and back showing only small cracks on the lower right front screen — and said Benoit didn’t turn over a copy of the video until he was served with a subpoena.

“We think the video speaks for itself,” Benoit’s lawyer, retained for a possible lawsuit and internal-affairs complaint, told the Herald.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, local photographer Liam Crotty took it upon himself to visit Herisse’s Boynton Beach neighborhood to get some background on the 22-year-old, who died in the shooting after allegedly hitting at least one police officer with his blue Hyundai on Collins Avenue.

“By now there’s been quite a lot of media coverage about the fatal police shooting of 22-year old Raymond Herisse on Memorial Day in Miami Beach,” Crotty wrote in a blog post about the visit. “But after six days of reporting, I noticed not one story had been done on just who Raymond was.”

Days after the shooting, Boynton Beach police identified Herisse as the gunman in a robbery at a BP gas station back in November. Crotty visited the BP and Herisse’s home, which is apparently in “a quiet, safe suburban residential neighborhood”. (This detail is worth noting since the shooting has triggered heated opposition to Urban Beach Week — an annual event that attracts hundreds of thousands of black, college-age visitors to Miami Beach. The fact that Herisse lived in a “a quiet, safe suburban residential neighborhood” challenges the widely prevailing characterization of him as an “urban thug”.)

During his visit, Crotty spoke briefly with Herisse’s mother and to her neighbor, Cathy Vivarttas. An excerpt:

[Cathy] explained that Raymond had moved in to the house back in 2005 with his younger and older sisters and mother who was raising all three children by herself. Cathy explained that Raymond’s mother is Haitian, speaks very little English but works two full time jobs to “keep a house over their heads” and is an excellent neighbor. Cathy added that right after moving into the house, she and her three children were out in the yard landscaping and gardening and keep it up very well. Yes, there’s even a white picket fence …

You can view photos from Crotty’s excursion and read the rest of the post at liamcrotty.com.

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6 Comments on “City of Miami Beach: Seeing is not believing”

  1. 1 Rick said at 3:00 pm on June 8th, 2011:

    Jordan…just to clarify, I don’t think the Miami Beach PD is “challenging” that Benoit was taken down at gunpoint. It’s clearly evident by watching the video that he was. I believe they’re providing a reason why that happened.

    There are a couple minor inconsistencies in what Benoit told the Herald and what police say happened [Benoit claimed that the phone was not working and was smashed] but nothing that, in my opinion, really made either party any more or less believable in the end.

    I also enjoyed Liam’s work and gave it my Post of the Week recognition, but I think it’s very important to note that Herisse had been arrested 13 times since 2007. It’s not an inconsequential fact, and should be noted in any discussion of Herisse, in my opinion, not because it makes him guilty of anything on Memorial Day, but because it is as much part of him as that house with a white picket fence in Boynton Beach.

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  2. 2 Jordan Melnick said at 3:42 pm on June 8th, 2011:

    @Rick, you’re right, clarification needed. I meant that they are challenging his version of what happened: held at gun point and later tried to confiscate and destroy his cell phone. Also fair point about the 13 arrests. I’m by no means trying to spit shine Herrisse’s record, thus the mention of hitting a cop with his car and the BP robbery. The reason I linked to Crotty’s post was not because I think it makes Herisse look like a victim, but that it points out that he was not part of Bower’s “urban” crowd.

  3. 3 one to many said at 5:51 pm on June 8th, 2011:

    KEEP YOUR CAMERAS ROLLING ON THESE EVIL ANIMALS. The police’s mindless Murder. DISGUSTING. 100 shots at a parked car. DISGUSTING. firing guns at a moving vehicle hitting local people. DISGUSTING. Planting a gun after 3 days. DISGUSTING. pointing guns at witnesses. DISGUSTING. Smashing witness evidence. DISGUSTING. GOOGLE Raymond Herisse. Came from suburban neighborhood. 2 Minor drug arrest. IF THESE CRIMINAL COPS ARE NOT GIVEN LIFE IN PRISON. THIS COUNTRY WE LIVE IN WILL BE ONE MORE MURDER CLOSER TO A DISGUSTING SH*T HOLE.

  4. 4 B.A.C. said at 4:11 am on June 9th, 2011:

    That statement from MBPD is a joke. Matched a fleeing suspect? I wonder if the description was as follows:

    Fleeing Suspect is identified as black, 5’5″ with short cropped black hair.

    Give me an effing break. That video speaks for itself. Pigs the lot of ‘em.

  5. 5 wake up people said at 12:39 pm on June 15th, 2011:

    people we need to wake up and realize we are closer than ever to a police state. they no longer want us citizens to own firearms they are closer than ever to there new world order…..wake up people!!!!100 shots seem to be a little overkill dont you think..heep recording people just becareful they are in process of making a law against being able to record police officers on the job.

  6. 6 Max said at 2:13 pm on June 29th, 2011:

    It,s time for national congressional inquiries into police actions, and affairs.It is time to reign in the police, the whole thing needs scrapping, and rebuilt from the ground up.Police have broken the social contact, and continue to do so on a daily basis.It is them creating and continuing a US AND THEM mentality.Police are to be held to a higher standard of moral conduct., they must be reminded of just what their jobs are, and the fact that they as people hold no authority over others, the uniform, and the badge do.At the moment they are being a disgrace to both, and a disgrace to the justice system they serve, and a disgrace to the populations that are paying them.


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