Police Chief Defends Officer-Involved Shootings

Conflict Arises Over Police Shootings, Gambling

Published On: Nov 17 2011 01:20:48 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 04 2011 01:33:21 PM EST
MIAMI -

Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito went on the defensive Monday, standing up for his police force in light of a rash of recent police-involved shootings, the most recent of which ended in a man's death.

A half-dozen shootings by Miami police officers in just over six months have sparked outrage among a group of residents who went to City Hall on Monday to pray for change.

"We're being pushed towards a boiling point," said the Rev. Anthony Tate, of the New Resurrection Community Church. "We need answers as it relates to six shootings in our community."

The most recent police-involved shooting happened on New Year's Day. SWAT team officers combing an Overtown neighborhood noticed Lynn Weatherspoon, 27, with a handgun, according to police. Investigators said there was a confrontation and a Miami police officer opened fire, killing Weatherspoon.

"We'd like answers as to why our family member was killed," said a relative of Weatherspoon.

The newly sworn city manager, Tony Crapp Jr., said on his first day on the job Monday that he hopes to grasp those answers.

"Anytime you have a number of shootings, there is some concern," Crapp said. "I'll be discussing that with the chief, and I'm going to gather information and we'll make decisions in the future."

Earlier in the day, Exposito, who is facing rising pressure from Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado over his job performance, did not want to talk to Local 10. But later, he agreed to speak and said he stands by his officers 100 percent.

"I don't change anything, the way that we're doing," Exposito said. "The fact that these officers are not being seriously hurt or killed says a lot about our training and what we're telling them to do. They have an obligation to protect themselves and others."

Tensions between the city's mayor and the police chief have been escalating. The conflict began when the mayor publicly criticized Exposito for the rising crime numbers in Miami and for the way the chief handled the police-involved shootings.

Last week, Exposito sent a letter to Regalado, accusing him of meddling in police investigations involving illegal gambling at cafeterias and bodegas. Copies of the letter were delivered to the FBI and the State Attorney's Office.

Exposito met with the mayor and the city manager Monday about the most recent officer-involved shooting.

"Do you feel like all of your questions have been answered when it comes to the chief?" Local 10's Terrell Forney asked Regalado after the meeting.

"No," Regalado said. "I still say that I don't want to get involved with investigations, but I do think we should come up with a plan to reach out to the community."

The investigations of four of the six police-involved shootings have been turned over to the State Attorney's Office. Exposito blames that department for dragging its feet on the investigations.