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Police officers will not be charged in fatal Urban Beach Weekend shooting

Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office decides not to charge officers involved in May 30, 2011 shooting that killed Raymond Herisse

MIAMI-DADE, Fla. – Police officers will not be charged for killing a 22-year-old man from Boynton Beach during 2011 Urban Beach Weekend in South Beach, the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office announced Tuesday afternoon.

Several people recorded the last seconds of Raymond Herisse's life May 30, 2011. Witnesses said police officers were taking phones away from people suspected of taping the shooting. Despite that, some videos made it to YouTube.

Narces Benoit said his video almost didn't, as an officer "smashed" his phone, before another took it away. He said police did not know that he was able to hide the memory card in his mouth. He later sold the video to CNN.

"Oh my God! They are going to kill this man," he said as officers pointed their weapons at Herisse. And after officers discharged their weapons, he said on the video, "Oh my God! He is got to be dead now."

There were three shootings, as police chased Herisse on Collins Avenue from 17th Street to 13th Street. In total, police officers fired an estimated 116 bullets. Records of the internal investigation show eight of the officers involved in the shootings were from the Miami Beach and four were from Hialeah.

"The investigation has determined that the shooting officers were legally justified in their use of force and no criminal charges will be filed against the subject officers," State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a letter Tuesday.

During the shooting, there were four tourists injured who were upset with police. But they didn't expect the officers to be charged. In the past two decades, records show prosecutors in Florida have not charged one police officer with using deadly force.

'Dangerous suspect'

When Herisse was killed, there were an estimated 250,000 visiting Miami Beach for the Urban Beach Weekend, a hip-hop festival held in South Beach on Memorial Day weekend since 2001. African Americans became the majority on South Beach. And there were police officers from several different departments expecting gangster rap trouble.

Herisse, who had a criminal record, was driving with a suspended license when he was killed. Also, a toxicology report shows he was legally drunk -- at a blood-alcohol level of 0.14. Aaron Eric Andrews, who was with Herisse earlier that night, told police he saw him drinking Hennessy cognac. 

CONCLUSION OF INVESTIGATION

A summary of the 86 page final memo released Tuesday said "the officers did not commit a criminal act and were justified in the use of the deadly force."

"They reasonably believed to be necessary to defend themselves from bodily harm or using while attempting to arrest Herisse, who was a fleeing from the commission of multiple felonies," the State Attorney's Office said in the memo.

The chase began when Hialeah police officer Oscar Amago, who was on bicycle patrol, said he heard a car "squealing its wheels" on Collins Avenue.

The officer turned to investigate and saw Herisse accelerating and braking harshly three times. He was traveling in bumper to bumper traffic, between 17th and 16th Streets, police said.

Amago said he got off his bicycle and walked over to talk to Herisse about 3:50 a.m.

Amago said he asked Herisse to put the car in park and get out, but he didn't comply. Herisse was in a blue 2006 four-door Hyundai Sonata with tinted windows that belonged to Yarlin Navarro, of West Palm Beach.

Navarro later said he had borrowed the car the day before to travel from Boyton Beach to Miami Beach.

'I believe he struck one of the officers'

Amago said he grabbed Herisse's left hand and tried to pull him out of the car. Hialeah Sgt. Gabriel Gonzalez, Hialeah officer Erik Martin and Miami Beach Officer Wilson Romero were also on bike patrol nearby. Romero saw Herisse's driver's side door open and then quickly close. 

Herisse then used his right hand to turn the steering wheel and stepped on the gas to make a left turn, while Amago was still holding on to his left arm, police said. That was when Romero said he saw Hialeah police officer Marlon Espinosa grab the driver's door and nearly get hit.

Hialeah police Lt. Kay White said she saw Herisse got stuck in traffic, sped on the wrong side of the road and got stuck again. Three officers were banging on the car's window, but Herisse continued to flee and turned toward Espinoza, White said.

Herisse was "hitting officers with no mercy," said Ronald Pierre, who was driving southbound on Collins Avenue.

Hialeah Officer Mark Quinlan said he saw officers running after the car and heard shots fired. Martin and Espinoza fired at the Hyundai from the east side of Collins Avenue.

A police officer shouted on the radio, "Shots fired! Shots fired! Shots fired!"

'We have a vehicle fleeing at a high rate of speed'

Hialeah police officer Ariel Hernandez said he heard Herisse "peeling out" as he fled. Herisse was driving on the sidewalk, as he was trying to squeeze through and continued into incoming traffic, White said.

"Hialeah 200. Priority. There's a vehicle fleeing southbound on Collins at 16 Street,"  a police officer said during a Miami Beach radio transmission about 4 a.m.

Miami Beach Officer Steven Confessore said he saw several damaged police bicycles on the side of the street. For a short distance, Herisse carried portions of the bicycles in his undercarriage as he continued driving, a witness said.

Miami Beach Officer Gustavo Blacio said he heard Herisse crashing into other vehicles. Herisse crashed into a Mercedes-Benz that was leaving the Loews Hotel on 16th Street and Collins Avenue.

DOWNLOAD DOCUMENT

Read the testimony of 62 witnesses included on the closing memo of the fatal police shooting

D'Angelo Sippio said he was driving southbound on Collins Avenue between 15th and 14th when he saw Herisse was weaving in and out of traffic.  Sippio heard someone shout, "Get him! Get him!" And then saw, Herisse "ramming" other cars before he sideswiped his Audi A4 and kept on going. Police officers in bicycles and on foot were chasing behind. He said some were shouting, "Stop!"

'14th and Collins. Shots fired'

Herisse didn't stop. Police shot at the car for the second time near the 1400 block of Collins Avenue. Hialeah police officer Ricardo Babich and Miami Beach police officers Leon Azicri, Frederick Dominguez, Philip Elmore, Kenne Espada and Derick Kuilan fired their weapons.

Crime technicians later found 31 bullet casings in the area, a report said. 

Tourist Cedrick Rodrigus Perkins was shot in the left shoulder. He was visiting from Tallahassee when he saw Herisse speeding with a flat tire and crashing into cars. Surveillance video shows Perkins bleeding at the lobby of the Delores Hotel and Suites, 1420 Collins Ave. He said a bullet lodged near his heart, because doctors determined the surgery to remove it was too risky.

Romero said he was running south when he saw Rivera and pedestrians running for their lives. Surveillance video at Nassau Hotel, 1414 Collins Ave., shows Herisse going southbound and weaving from the northbound lanes to the southbound lane of Collins. There was a damaged police bicycle kickstand on the northbound lanes near 1418 Collins Avenue and a bicycle reflector near 1415 Collins Avenue.

Crystal Rivera, a tourist from New York, said she was walking when she was shot on her left arm near her elbow. She sought refuge at the Mac's Deuce Bar, 222 14th St. Two months later, surgeons at the Long Island Jewish Hospital in New York  were able to remove the bullet.

Onel Thelor was driving his taxi when he saw the commotion and decided to park on the side of the road. He said he was "ducking down" when he heard gunshots and felt a car hit him. Miami Beach Officer Andre Souza said that aside from Thelor's taxi, Marvin Evans' white BMW and Nyda Sapeeia Whyte's gray Chevrolet Impala were also hit near 1334 Collins Avenue.

WITNESS CLAIMS

Cops destroyed the phones of some of the witnesses, Narces Benoit and Ericka Davis said.

Andre Paul Stewart said he saw police officers shooting at the moving car. Other witnesses said they heard four gunshots before the Hyundai rolled to a stop. The car was between the broken yellow lines dividing the north and southbound lanes, a video posted on YouTube shows.  The officers lined up without cover and pointed their guns,  a video a witness posted on YouTube shows.

'We have the car. We have the car at 13th and Collins'

Jeff Jean Louis said he was in a car on Collins Avenue when he heard an officer yelling at someone in a stopped car to "freeze and get out of the car." Marco Renel Philizaire was also driving when he heard a police officer yelling at a driver to "get out of the car! Get out of the car! And stop moving." Witnesses said officers also shouted "Let me see your hands!" Philizaire said he saw Herisse moving around and said he heard officers shout "stop moving!" more than 10 times. 

Miami-Dade Sgt. Chris Hodges said he tried to open the driver's side door to get Herisse out, but couldn't. When he moved to open the rear door, he heard an officer shout, "he is moving!" Hodges said he was able to get out of the way just in time before several officers fired their weapons in unison.

Sarah Alesia Garcia, a tourist from Naples, was walking with friends when she heard the shots. She said she tried to take cover near a gated fence. Bullets whizzed by her, she said. After she was shot in the arm and leg, she said she went into shock. Aventura Officer Kenneth Sealy saw her and kept her low, so she wouldn't get hit again. He asked Aventura Officer Shawn Bergert to call fire rescue.

Surveillance video shows people running and taking cover at Suites on South Beach boutique hotel, 1330 Collins Ave.  At first Oscar Fernandez, who lived on the seventh floor of 1300 Collins Avenue, said that when he was recording the incident with his phone, he thought Herisse was "shooting from inside the vehicle." But he later clarified that it was an assumption, because he didn't actually see him shooting.

THE SHOOTING OFFICERS

Learn more about the officers involved in the three shootings that took place during the chase

Miami Beach Officer Eric Figueroa was shooting at Herisse, when he hit Carlson Saint Louis, a pedestrian who was visiting from Pompano Beach. Saint Louis said he heard "firecrackers," when he started running and he was bleeding  from his left hip and hid behind some bushes.

After Herisse was shot, Miami Beach Officer Charles London also tried to open the driver's side door, but like Hodges he couldn't because the handle was missing. Another officer opened the passenger side and handcuffed Herisse, before a few officers pulled him out of the car. They said they performed CPR until paramedics arrived and took him to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center.

'He's got a gun'

Before the officers fired at Herisse for the last time, Nicolas Adam Fortney, who lives in the area, said he heard an officer yelling, "He's got a gun!" Some officers said it looked like he was reaching for something.

After removing Herisse's body,  police officers searched the car. Police had it towed after the crime scene was processed and Collins Avenue re-opened. Carlos Noriega, who was the Miami Beach police chief at the time, first reported officers did not find a gun in the car that Herisse was driving during the chase.

It took officers three days after the fatal shooting to obtain a warrant to search the car again. After the second search, they reported  finding a black 9 mm Berretta 92 FS, semiautomatic pistol. Noriega said that officers didn't find it at first, because it was under the driver's seat covered with a towel.

Tuesday's close-out memo said police found the fully loaded gun on the rear passenger side floorboard wrapped in a black T-shirt. Investigators said the gun had been used during an armed robbery Oct. 6, 2010, in Palm Beach County.

WATCH SOME OF THE VIDEOS

Omar Fernandez's video >

Narces Benoit's video >

Miami-Dade's forensic services bureau's biology section technicians did not find Herisse's finger prints on the gun, but did find his DNA on the firearm's trigger and slid and on the black T-shirt.

Herisse's hands tested negative for gunpowder residue, so investigators concluded he did not fire a gun during the chase.

Follow Local10.com reporter Andrea Torres on Twitter @MiamiCrime