Laura Russell is a nine-year-veteran of the Metro-Dade Police Department, a decorated officer with dozens of commendations in her personnel file. In nearly every evaluation, the 28-year-old Miami native has received her highest marks in the category that rates initiative. "Officer Russell is always looking for suspicious or unusual activity, and is an active worker who thoroughly enjoys her work," read her 1989 evaluation. "She seeks out the criminal element," her 1988 assessment noted.
That aggressive nature has not always won her accolades, however. In 1986 she was criticized in her evaluation for being "an individual who involves herself in situations without first properly assessing the totality of the danger or proper officer-safety techniques to use." The evaluation went on: "It has resulted in other officers responding needlessly in an emergency mode or being canceled after a short period of time."
In 1985, while on patrol only a couple of miles from where she later shot Andrew Morello, Russell was attacked by a man who wrestled her gun away from her and shot her twice in the back. One bullet pierced her shoulder, the other struck her bulletproof vest. Though wounded, the 21-year-old rookie made it back to her patrol car and radioed for help. She provided a good description of the suspect, and her attacker was caught within ten minutes.
George Russell has been a City of Miami police officer since March 1982, and while his personnel file contains more than three dozen commendations, it also shows he has been reprimanded several times for failing to appear in court to testify in various criminal cases and for being involved in "preventable" traffic accidents with his police car.
George Russell's 1988 evaluation indicated that he had a "less than positive attitude" concerning his job. Two years later the criticism surfaced again, when Russell was admonished to "change his attitude concerning the police profession." It was not clear what attitudes his superiors found unacceptable.
Russell's name appeared in the press just days before the shooting, when he was identified as having been among the officers involved in the January 3 arrest of 23-year-old Antonio Edwards. After another officer placed the man in a choke hold, Edwards lapsed into a coma from which he still has not recovered. Russell's actions that night are not under investigation, Miami police officials say, and he remains on duty.