A Shot in the Dark

Who did Mario Barcia think he was aiming at when he shot a cop?

Dominguez returned on foot to the spot where the rock was. There he met up with Ofcrs. Kevin Thelwell, Chad Murphy, and Emilio Cabrera. All three had responded to the call for backup, and all three were wearing the standard-issue beige tops and brown pant uniforms of the Miami-Dade police. Dominguez sent Thelwell and Cabrera to the front of the block on SW 208th Terrace to assist Wever.

The plan, they decided, was to line up the rock with the backs of the houses so they could make a rough calculation as to where the rock may have come from, then confront the owner of the house. It was a shaky plan, Wever would admit later in court. Since they didn't really see the rock hit the vehicle, they had no way of knowing its trajectory.

The block of SW 208th Street where the rock lay has a three- to four-foot-high concrete wall on one side that runs along the back of all the houses that face SW 208th Terrace. Some of the houses, including Barcia's, have higher wooden fences inside the wall to discourage potential intruders. In order to see over the additional fences, Murphy and Dominguez hopped on the wall and walked along the top of the concrete surface until they reached the point parallel to where the rock was. Murphy signaled Wever, Cabrera, and Thelwell -- who were now on Barcia's front lawn -- with his flashlight and told them on the side-channel radio that he had drawn even with the rock.

Barcia and his wife Mercedes next to one of the bullet 
holes from their October confrontation with police
Jonathan Postal
Barcia and his wife Mercedes next to one of the bullet holes from their October confrontation with police
A police photo shows Ofcr. Wever as he appeared the 
night of the shooting
A police photo shows Ofcr. Wever as he appeared the night of the shooting

In the back of the house Murphy and Dominguez noticed what Dominguez later described as "a fresh footprint" on the top of a doghouse in Barcia's back yard. They thought that someone might have been able to stand on the igloo-shaped doghouse, see over Barcia's seven-foot-high wooden fence and the wall, and throw a rock. Believing the suspect or suspects were still in the vicinity, Murphy and Dominguez jumped into the yard and began searching the area with their flashlights.

At close to 12:41 a.m., Wever, Thelwell, and Cabrera approached the house from the front. In the driveway was Barcia's beige Jeep Cherokee; on the back window of the car the officers noticed "KKK" and "Satan is here" written in white lettering. Wever went to the front door and started pounding on it with the fleshy part of his closed fist. He says that all three announced they were police officers. "Open up! Miami-Dade police," they claim to have repeated. Murphy and Dominguez -- who were still in the back yard -- say they heard the men in front as well. Murphy, however, admitted later that neither he nor Dominguez announced themselves as police officers even as they scoped out the area with their flashlights. And Dominguez can't remember if he had his flashlight on the whole time.

Barcia's next-door neighbor, David Lee, heard the commotion and went to his front door. Lee, a giant Jamaican man with a beard and a gentle demeanor, looked out his peephole before opening his door: Wever was at Barcia's door, Thelwell at the front of the Cherokee in the driveway, and Cabrera to the side of the Jeep. Cabrera asked Lee if any teenagers lived in the house. Lee answered no. Then Thelwell asked him to go back inside his house. The exchange lasted no more than 30 seconds, Lee estimates. Lee went into his home, and the pounding at the door continued outside. Lee says he never heard any of the men say they were police officers.

Several other neighbors told detectives they didn't hear the police announce themselves either. And although there were now four police cars in the area, none of them had their lights flashing and none was parked in front of Barcia's house. Both Wever and Cabrera say that while they were knocking they saw someone inside the house. Cabrera says he saw that someone look out the window. Neither could give a clear description of the person. They say they continued knocking, while Thelwell asked dispatch to call Barcia's house and ask the residents to step outside. Dispatch didn't have time to make the call before the shooting occurred.

In the meantime, Dominguez and Murphy searched the back yard. Murphy wielded an eight-inch-long black Stinger XT flashlight and Dominguez a smaller Streamlight Thelwell had loaned him. They checked the doghouse where they'd seen the footprints. Nobody. Then they checked a woodshed and found it littered with old tools. "We made our way to the patio area," Dominguez later testified. The door to the screened-in patio was unlocked and open.

"It was open ... We tried to see if we could see somebody inside the house ... I never tried any doors." Dominguez says he got close enough to the French doors, though, to see footprints resembling those on the doghouse. It was dark, but the oven light in the kitchen illuminated the area. "I was standing pretty much next to Officer Murphy, maybe a foot behind him to his left, and we looked -- simultaneously, we both looked up and that's when I saw the subject coming from the hallway in a low ready position with a handgun."

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