FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A Weston man accused of causing the death of a bouncer at a beachfront bar may never face trial because the Fort Lauderdale Police Department destroyed all of the evidence in the case, his public defender said.
In August 2012, the famous Elbo Room bar was the scene of a shooting that stunned the bar’s owners and regulars.
Police said Gregory Burns got into a fight with another patron and bouncer Cristian Nunez had to force him to leave.
Burns and Nunez got into a struggle as they left the bar, and Burns shot Nunez in the stomach, police said. Nunez was rushed to a local hospital, but he died of his injuries a year and a half later in 2014.
This year, Burns, 57, is set to stand trial on charges of manslaughter with a firearm, but his attorney, Joseph Lawrence Jr., argued that -- without any evidence -- the charges should be dismissed.
In a court filing, Lawrence said the lead detective wanted to retest some evidence and “at that time it was discovered that all of these items had already been destroyed under the direction of evidence unit supervisor Dawn Ramage.”
Tracy Figone, a spokeswoman for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, confirmed the evidence was destroyed during a "routine purging procedure." Figone said the original aggravated battery charges were dismissed and officers were unaware new charges were added when Nunez died of his injuries.
"We will add that there are safeguards now in place to ensure this will not occur in the future," Figone said.
Lawrence said the evidence included the gun used in the shooting, bullet casings and dashcam video from the scene.
The filing said that Burns could have used the evidence to mount a justifiable or accidental homicide defense. Without the ability to access that evidence, however, Lawrence argued that Burns would not be able to have a fair trial.
A court hearing will be held on May 2 to determine whether the charges against Burns should be dismissed.