A candidate challenging Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle in the August primary said that it is her office’s responsibility to see to it that last year’s Memorial Day weekend shooting on a South Beach street is thoroughly investigated.
But Rod Vereen also said it is Rundle’s obligation to “expeditiously” close out the yet-concluded case so that the community and those involved can have “closure.”
Vereen, who is seeking to knock off the 19-year incumbent in the Aug. 14 Democratic primary, spoke to the Miami Beach Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club July 17. His comments about the South Beach shooting came in response to a question about why, more than a year later, the Miami Beach police department and state attorney’s office have yet to issue close-out reports on it.
The shooting, in the wee hours of Memorial Day, May 30, 2011, broke out at Collins Ave. and 15th St. Police opened fire on a speeding car that had been involved in an earlier crash with a squad car and had also hit other vehicles.
The driver, later identified as the suspect in a Boynton Beach shooting days earlier, was killed. Four innocent bystanders were injured by stray bullets. Two Miami Beach officers and a Hialeah officer sustained minor injuries.
News reports as recent as this spring said that none of the injured bystanders are yet able to file claims for compensation from the city as long as the outcomes of the police and state attorney investigations are nowhere in sight.
“I saw the videotape of what took place on South Beach,” Vereen said. “In regard to police shootings, they take a while because crime scene investigators have to come out and collect all of the evidence. Witnesses have to be questioned. And when you have hundreds of people out there, there will be a lot of witnesses.
“Then internal affairs has to conduct their investigation. After internal affairs, they have to turn the case file over to the state attorney who then has to go through the entire file and may have to question witnesses again” before making a determination of whether or not to file charges.
Sometimes, Vereen said, “these cases have been going on for five or 6 years” before they reach a resolution.
“But what happens in any police shooting is that a family that has lost a loved one needs closure, a law enforcement officer and/or his family need closure, and you have a community that needs closure. And depending on where it happened, it can have an effect on tourism in those particular areas,” he said.
“The state attorney’s office has an obligation to try to close these cases out as expeditiously as possible but make sure that it is well investigated before you do. That does not stop a civil lawsuit. A police officer can be found not criminally liable for shooting but still be found to be liable [civilly].”