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.