The family of a 22-year-old man killed in a barrage of police gunfire during a hip-hop Urban Beach Week festival in 2011 filed a civil rights and negligence lawsuit Tuesday seeking damages for his death and hoping to figure out what happened.
Attorney Marwan Porter said the family believes the killing of Raymond Herisse was unjustified.
"Any notion that Raymond Herisse fired a gun out of vehicle that evening is not what happened," said Porter. "That is not what happened, and at worst, he was executed -- over 100 rounds fired into his vehicle, assassinating him, executing him -- for at worst, driving recklessly."
Officers fired more than 100 shots at Herisse's car after police said he was driving erratically on Miami Beach and hit one officer. An autopsy showed Herisse was struck at least 16 times. His blood-alcohol level was above Florida's 0.08 legal limit.
A handgun wrapped inside a towel was found days after the shooting, but the autopsy found no gunshot residue on Herisse's hands. The actions of the 12 officers remain under investigation by the office of Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
"Even if there was a gun in the vehicle, Raymond didn't use it," said Porter.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages and names individual officers as well as departments and senior officials with the cities of Miami Beach and Hialeah. Police have said Herisse was speeding down a crowded Collins Avenue, his car striking one officer and almost hitting others. The family maintains he had already stopped when officers opened fire.
"What the family is seeking is for those who are responsible to be held accountable," Porter said. "This type of conduct is reprehensible and should not be tolerated in a civilized society."
Herisse's sister, Charline Herisse, said the family has been seeking answers for nearly two years.
"They haven't told us anything. We have been unable to heal. We can't move on. We're just left without my brother," she said. "My brother didn't have a gun. He wasn't shooting, so we need answers. We need to be able to have some kind of closure."
The shooting happened during the annual Memorial Day festival that draws hundreds of thousands of people to Miami Beach to celebrate hip-hop culture, music and fashion. Police have since beefed up their presence, deploying scanners on beach causeways to check license plates for outstanding warrants, maintaining DUI checkpoints and erecting several police surveillance watchtowers.
The city of Miami Beach has launched a public advertising campaign dubbed "respect the scene" that includes posters and social media messages featuring Miami Heat players Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem. The ads cite rules such as no open containers of alcohol in public and urging people to keep down the noise and refrain from littering.
"This is your time to chill. Remember to respect the city that makes it possible," the ads say.