The Liberty Square projects are located in the city of Miami but owned by the county.
The Liberty Square projects are located in the city of Miami but owned by the county.
Photo by George Martinez

Miami Cops Drop Charges After Arresting Wrong Guys in Liberty City Shooting

Six hours ago, Miami Police held a press conference where Mayor Francis Suarez lauded the cops for their "diligent" work apprehending two suspects in last month's high-profile shooting in Liberty City that killed two teenagers and sparked a student-led walkout. Just hours later, MPD sheepishly released those same suspects and admitted they'd arrested the wrong guys.

As it turns out, video evidence proved the two men — Anthony Clinch and Yaairnes Rashad Bryant — were not in the area when the shooting spree went down. MPD had put out a warrant for a third suspect, Deondre McDuffy, who they'd warned was armed and potentially dangerous. The department dropped that warrant too.

The gaffe comes just four days after a different Miami officer, Mario Figueroa, was videotaped kicking a handcuffed, defenseless man directly in the head. The second incident is certain to raise questions about Chief Jorge Colina, who was reportedly Mayor Suarez's hand-picked choice to replace outgoing department head Rodolfo Llanes in January. MPD is still being monitored by the U.S. Department of Justice after the DOJ chastised the force in 2013 for shooting too many unarmed black people.

MPD has not yet said what pushed them to arrest Clinch and Bryant if the two men so clearly could prove their innocence. The city and numerous TV channels blasted out Clinch and Bryant's mugshots and said they were accused of firing 25 gunshots during a Liberty City argument at Northwest 63rd Street and 13th Place that began last month over food-stamps. The shooting sparked a school walkout at Miami Northwestern High School in Liberty City, which was inspired by the #MarchForOurLives anti-gun-violence movement that swelled up after the Parkland school massacre in February.

An anonymous source with knowledge of city politics said Mayor Suarez is currently "unhappy" and "displeased" that his own department effectively made a fool of him today. Chief Colina released a statement late this afternoon announcing that the two men arrested indeed had credible alibis:

Today, May 7, 2018, Miami Police investigators reviewed a video which appears to support an alibi for one of the individuals arrested for the murders of Rickey Dixon and Kimson Lee Green, Mr. Anthony Clinch. In light of the new evidence, the homicide charges against Mr. Clinch are being dropped, as are the charges against Yaairnes Rashad Bryant. We would also like to advise the public that we are cancelling the active warrant for Deondre McDuffy. While the Miami Police Department is committed to the pursuit of justice, it is equally committed to the protection of the innocent. We would like to assure the public that we will continue to maintain the highest possible ethical standards as we strive to keep our community safe. I will be available to answer questions today at 6 p.m. regarding this incident at the Miami Police Headquarters.

Hours after NBC Miami first broke news that the two men were being released, MPD began deleting clips from today's press conference from its Twitter profile. The department then posted another tweet about the release before realizing they'd posted incorrect information and deleting that, too.

Mayor Suarez posted a clip of himself praising his department mere hours ago. At today's presser, he praised MPD for how rapidly the officers had made an arrest, and for the fact that Liberty City hasn't seen a shooting since.

"That can be credited directly to the work of our police chief, to his command staff, and to all the officers," he said.

The debacle mirrors a similar incident from last year, in which charges were dropped against a teenager charged with killing a visiting rabbi in 2014. (Miami-Dade County Police, rather than MPD, made that arrest.) In that case, however, it took years for State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to admit the case's weakness.

The latest arrests of Clinch and Bryant also brought the families of the victims some semblance of relief: CBS4 interviewed the aunt of one of the victims, Ricky Dixon, and reported that the families were "glad to see the suspects behind bars." As it turns out, the two men weren't the suspects at all.

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