Cariann Denise Hithon as seen in a recent YouTube video she filmed for class.EXPAND
Cariann Denise Hithon as seen in a recent YouTube video she filmed for class.
YouTube

Video: Woman Fatally Shot by Cops Near Ocean Drive Was 22-Year-Old Honor Student

Update: Video of the shooting has surfaced on Instagram. In the clip, Hithon's black BMW is parked on a narrow street and surrounded by people. The front bumper is smashed. Someone shouts, "She's drunk as shit!"

As police approach the car, Hithon's BMW lurches forward, and Miami Beach Officer David Cajuso rolls over the car's hood. A second male cop then shoots into the driver's window. The footage raises questions about whether officers' actions follow Miami Beach policy on shooting into moving cars, because it appears no one was in front of Hithon's car when police shot her.

#Part1 #shooting #southbeach #collins #copshooting #miami #drunkdriver

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After Miami Beach Police fired 116 bullets at 22-year-old Raymond Herisse's car on Memorial Day in 2011 and hit four innocent bystanders, the department banned cops from shooting at moving vehicles. Departments across the nation discourage the practice because killing a driver can turn a car into a multi-ton battering ram careening toward innocent people. But in May, Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates added a loophole allowing his cops to shoot at cars if they were headed toward crowds, a move the chief said was designed to stop acts of terror.

In an action that might be allowed under that loophole, MBPD cops fatally shot Cariann Denise Hithon, a 22-year-old honor student and community mentor on Sunday night. Details about the shooting are still emerging, but officers claim they were forced to open fire on Hithon last night after she drove her car into Officer David Cajuso near Ocean Drive and sent him flying onto the pavement.

Miami-Dade County police are investigating the shooting. They have not yet released the name of the officer who shot Hithon, but they confirmed she was killed. MDPD said Hithon's birthday was last Thursday, October 5, and her father confirmed to NBC 6 that she was in South Beach to celebrate turning 22.

So how did Hithon's birthday celebration turn into a fatal encounter with police? The details are still hazy, but police say Hithon was driving erratically at 6:15 p.m. yesterday when she crashed her black BMW into a car at 12th Street and Ocean Drive. Police say she then drove westbound, blew through a red light, nailed a car on Lincoln Road, and drove off again in what Oates called an "apparent attempt to flee the scene."

This time, MBPD says Cajuso was standing in the way — and she hit the officer, tossing him into the air and onto the asphalt. He was carried away on a stretcher but did not suffer serious injuries.

Police claim another cop was forced to shoot Hithon to prevent her from hitting other innocent people. But mortally wounding her clearly did not stop her car. Photos show her BMW ended up slamming head-on into a parked white SUV. Police confirmed a unnamed person was sitting in the front passenger seat of Hithon's car.

An NBC 6 reporter snapped a photo of the damage: The front of Hithon's BMW was smashed to smithereens. The photograph doesn't show where the bullet pierced the car. A witness told CBS Miami that after the car hit Officer Cajuso, the other cops fired "five or six" shots at the BMW.

"And then the car lost control," the witness said.

Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police President Bobby Jenkins released a statement today standing by the currently unnamed officer who opened fire.

"It is unfortunate that yesterday’s events ended in the loss of life, yet it is an officer’s duty to ensure the safety of the public under the imminent threat of harm from an individual," Jenkins said. "That being said, we cannot dismiss the fact that an officer was hit with deadly force by a vehicle that was driving recklessly and fleeing from the scene of an accident. We welcome the independent investigation being conducted by the Miami-Dade Police Department and are confident that our officer’s actions were justified, warranted, and appropriate given the circumstances at hand.”

Hithon's background suggests the last few hours of her life were anything but typical for her. Despite being only 22 years old, Hithon was accomplished: After growing up in Bowie, Maryland, she graduated from the private St. John's College High School in Washington, D.C., in 2013. (Even as a high-school junior, she took a keen interest in county governmental affairs, according to documents her home county posted online.)

Her LinkedIn page says she had been pursuing a degree in political science and government from Hampton University, a historically black school in Virginia. Her LinkedIn page also says she recently transferred to Temple University in Philadelphia — Temple's college directory lists her as a "liberal arts" student at the school. She also participated in a "Sister-to-Sister" mentorship program for children from 2013 until this year. She took part in a two-year leadership-skills fellowship run by the University of California educational system.

In 2014, she listed her "career goals" as obtaining a PhD in political science and becoming a criminal defense attorney. Hithon's criminal record was clear except for a citation for improper driving related to a speeding offense in August 2016, court records show.

Her father, Cary Hithon, is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and spent 26 years in the Navy. He oversaw two command-at-sea tours, according to his LinkedIn page. He now runs a business in Maryland that helps care for the elderly.

Few images have trickled out of Miami Beach since the shooting occurred.

"It's under investigation why he opened fire," Oates told reporters last night.

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