MIAMI – The Miami-Dade Police Department said it is in the process of reviewing the Miami-Dade State Attorney's critical and sharply-worded 41-page report closing out an investigation into a botched police sting during which Miami-Dade police officers shot and killed four criminals.
Eleven officers were involved in the fatal shootings of four known criminals the night of June 30, 2011. The Miami-Dade State Attorney's report classifies one of those shootings as justified, outlines questions about the other three but concludes insufficient evidence exists to prosecute them as criminal actions.
"Due to a number of unusual, counter-intuitive, suspicious and/or disturbing factors," prosecutors wrote, "we cannot state definitively that those shootings were legally justified."
The Police Department wrote in an emailed statement that it will be assessing the events of that operation and results, though it is not clear why that has not been done in the two and half years since.
Miami-Dade's special tactical teams had strategically planned the operation to take down a known group of violent and cruel home invaders who had hit more than 100 victims. They had beaten some of their victims and tortured some by cutting genitals, hammering fingers and threatening harm to children to extort their parents.
One of the men, Rosendo Betancourt Garcia, had turned confidential informant and helped lure the group to what they thought was their next crime, but was instead the police sting.
Why the four men suddenly decided to run in the middle of the operation is not clear, but as they did, the separate shootings began.
The one of the four shootings deemed legally justified in the report is the death of Jorge Lemus, who did not comply with police commands to drop his weapon and hid behind a vehicle.
In the death of Roger Gonzalez Valdez, Sr, the report outlines how aerial police surveillance shows four officers tracking him as he hid in some trees.
Prosecutors wrote, "... it is difficult to comprehend why four officers, over a time span of approximately 10 seconds, fired in excess of 50 rounds at someone laying just a few feet in front of them."
The video shows the confidential informant, Betancourt-Garcia, who had not followed their orders, raise his arms. He "... is seen getting down on his knees whereupon he lays down on the ground on his stomach..." The police fire that kills him is only heard; the camera had moved away.
Also on police audiotape, nine gunshots were fired at Antonio Andrew, then two more shots 18 seconds later. Prosecutors wrote they "...have no idea who fired them or why they were fired."
Seven of the officers declined to give statements to prosecutors. The four who did described fear for their lives by armed criminals, backed with evidence at the scene. Prosecutors wrote they questioned some of that physical evidence, but did not have enough to prove it was not authentic.
The families of the dead criminals, through their attorneys, declined to comment on the report.