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Some of the victims of police brutality in South Florida memorialized on the @namesyoudontknow Instagram account.EXPAND
Some of the victims of police brutality in South Florida memorialized on the @namesyoudontknow Instagram account.
Illustrations by Mark Espinosa and Alejandra Abad

Instagram Account Spotlights South Florida Victims of Police Brutality

On July 5, 2010, DeCarlos Moore died after he was gunned down by a rookie City of Miami police officer during a traffic stop in Overtown.

The 36-year-old had been pulled over by Officer Joseph Marin after his Honda Accord was misidentified as being stolen. It was a simple mistake: The car's license plate number was the same as that of a 2006 dirt bike that had been stolen from Minnesota.

Moore was unarmed. The car he was driving belonged to his girlfriend of four years. But when he reached into the car to grab something, Marin fired a single fatal shot at Moore's head. Prosecutors in State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle's office determined in 2011 that Marin was justified in the killing.

Moore's story is one of a dozen currently posted on the new Instagram account @namesyoudontknow. Jess Swanson, a native Miamian and journalist, started the account earlier this month after she was unable to find a database for local victims of police brutality.

"I thought this was going to be a project I was going to do by myself. It would be my way as a white woman to contribute," Swanson tells New Times. "I thought to myself that I know how to research and read news well, and I have a solid understanding of basic cases that I know about here."

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DeCarlos Moore was affectionately known as “Cocky” to his friends and family. He grew up in Liberty City, and is described by his family as being full of laughter and fun. “He was very caring, very considerate and he loved his family. He always smiled and laughed and enjoyed being around for family gatherings. If his mother or family needed anything, he was always there. Actually, anything that he could do to help you, he would regardless of who you were,” said his cousin, Charles Jackson. • • On July 5, 2010, the 36-year-old was fatally shot in the forehead by Joseph Marin, a rookie City of Miami Police officer during a traffic stop. DeCarlos’ car was falsely identified as being stolen by Marin and the training officer he was with, Viona Browne-Williams. When DeCarlos pulled his car over and parked, the officers got out of their car with guns drawn and immediately began giving verbal commands to Moore. He complied, and then leaned into his car to reach for something. When he stood back up and faced the cops, Marin shot him. DeCarlos was unarmed. The same license plate number belonged to a 2006 stolen dirt bike from Minnesota. The car DeCarlos was driving belonged to his girlfriend of four years. • • DeCarlos was one of seven black men killed by city of Miami police officers over an eight month period in late 2010 and the beginning of 2011. DeCarlos’ death sparked protests in Overtown, where he was shot. Officer Marin was put on administrative leave while the murder was investigated and was later deemed “legally justified.” He was cleared of criminal charges and was later exonerated in 2013. • • Portrait by @alejandraabad__ ; research by @wildartichoke #blacklivesmatter #namesyoudontknow #justice4decarlosmoore

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During her tenure as a staff writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach, Swanson made contact with many Black Lives Matter activists while reporting stories of police violence. After she left the paper in 2016, she became frustrated that new cases often got little coverage nationally, or even locally.

"Latasha Walton getting shot while she's driving her car home in a routine traffic stop. Jermaine McBean shot walking home with an air rifle on his shoulder and headphones in his ear. So many cases that were so frustrating, and I wasn't seeing them get the attention that other cases in other cities were getting," she says.

Swanson reached her breaking point when she learned of the death of 16-year-old Damain Martin in Lauderhill. On March 8, 2019, Martin was running away from Sunrise police officers when one of them fired a Taser as Martin entered a shallow canal. Witnesses said Martin called out for help as officers stood on the shore. Less than an hour later, divers retrieved the teen's body and pronounced him dead.

Swanson and fellow journalist Jason Jeffers collaborated on a short documentary about the case, Drowning by Sunrise, in which a forensic anthropologist suggested that the Taser probe might have struck Martin and led to his death.

Through reporting the story, Swanson became close to Martin's mother, Tequila Waters, and saw the grieving woman's frustration firsthand.

"I watched her work so hard to make his name trend, to make people care, to make people learn — and people weren't," Swanson says.

After the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Swanson began attending protests in South Florida and noticed that most of the signs memorialized people killed elsewhere in the U.S.

"All the signs I would see were names of people in other cities. It made me realize that these people are well-meaning, but that no one knows how much injustice is right in our backyard," she says.

Tifanny Burks, a community organizer and Black Lives Matter activist, has worked with Swanson in the past and is now involved in the Names You Don't Know project.

"One of the first protests I ever helped organize was back in 2016 was shortly after Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were murdered by police. When that protest happened, we also made sure to highlight local names like Jermaine McBean, who was killed by a Broward County sheriff officer in 2013," Burks says. "I've always been deeply connected with how things that are happening on a national level affect us locally, because a lot of times people don't realize how a lot of these national issues are local problems as well. The local reflects the national."

The Names You Don't Know project, which will eventually have its own website, is intended to serve as an ongoing forum for documenting victims of police brutality in South Florida through the efforts of volunteers. Originally, Swanson says, she expected to research no more than 25 cases. But her list quickly grew to 40 names, leading her to reach out to her network for help.

Swanson posted about the initiative on her Instagram stories, asking her followers if they knew of other cases of police brutality or if they could help research the existing cases on her list.

"Some people don't feel comfortable protesting, but they want to do their part," Swanson explains. "Going home and researching these cases is the way that they contribute to the movement."

Within a week, the list ballooned to nearly 100 cases. Most of them date to recent decades; citing the 1980 riots following the acquittal of four Miami-Dade officers in the death of Arthur McDuffie, Swanson says it has been much easier to find documentation of cases of police violence after 1979.

"The McDuffie riots were such a huge part of Miami," she says. "Maybe it didn't reform the police, but what it did do was reform how journalists cover it. Being able to find cases post-McDuffie riots has been just a lot easier, so now I'm working on looking for cases before the McDuffie riots, which has been harder."

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Arthur Lee McDuffie was a 33-year-old insurance agent, former Marine and avid motorcyclist. Born in Georgia, he moved to Overtown when he was 6. He married his high-school sweetheart Frederica. They had three children. A natural leader, he loved talking to people. • On December 17, 1979, just before 2 a.m., Metro-Dade Police (now Miami-Dade Police) sgt Ira Diggs gave chase to a 1973 Kawasaki for a traffic violation. Three Metro-Dade officers (Alex Marrero, Mark Meier and Charles Veverka Jr.) caught up with Arthur (now inside Miami city limits) at North Miami Avenue and Northeast 38th Street. His home was a few blocks away. According to testimony, Arthur was unarmed, shouted “I give up” and “not making any aggressive actions.” An officer pulled Arthur off his motorcycle and yanked his helmet off. Another choked Arthur to the ground with a nightstick and had handcuffed Arthur’s hands behind his back. At least four more officers rushed up and started striking Arthur with Kel-Lites (long, heavy metal flashlights) and nightsticks. Metro Police Sgt. Herb Evans told officer William Hanlon to “ride up on the bike” with his squad car to make it look as if Arthur had crashed. • • That night Arthur’s wife Frederica was on duty as a nurse's aide at Jackson Memorial Hospital when an unidentified man with a fractured skull was brought in (one fracture was 10 inches long). She didn’t know it was her husband. He would slip into a coma and die four days later on December 21, 1979. The county’s chief deputy medical examiner testified the blows Arthur received were equivalent in force to a fall from a four-story building. State Attorney Janet Reno filed charges of manslaughter and tampering with evidence against five Metro-Dade officers. The trial was moved to Tampa, lasted seven weeks and an all-white, all-male jury acquitted the officers after deliberating for less than three hours. The court decision precipitated the three-day McDuffie riots in May 1980 in Miami: 18 people died, 350 injured and 600 arrested. • • County commissioners later approved a $1.1 million settlement with Arthur’s relatives. research by @kjhek

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Swanson is adamant that Names You Don't Know will not use people's mugshots. In cases where a victim's mugshot is the only photo available, she is working with illustrators to create portraits.

Burks says she hopes the project will provoke people to think more critically about policing and inspire people in other cities to do their own research on local cases of brutality.

"There is a role for every single person in this movement, and this movement needs everybody in order for us to really get the changes that we want to see," she says. "We must find different ways, based on one's own skill set, to transform these insidious systems that keep us oppressed, such as policing and prisons."

Swanson thinks back to a recent Miami-Dade County Commission meeting when Vice Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa, in response to commenters demanding more accountability for law enforcement, reassured citizens that "we are different to Minneapolis."

"I just remember that ringing in my ear. It made me so upset because I know that it has happened here," Swanson says. "I want people to learn that Miami and South Florida aren't immune to police brutality. Our police officers have killed people. Even if their names didn't become hashtags that were trending, this stuff still happens."

Names You Don't Know needs researchers, artists, illustrators, graphic designers, web developers, and tipsters with information about little-known cases of police brutality in South Florida. Those interested can reach Swanson by email.

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