Shooting a suspect is one of the most serious actions a police officer can take. We entrust cops to walk around town with guns to protect people, but when they have to use them, we also expect a full, clear explanation of what happened and why they felt compelled to take potentially deadly action.
So why won't local cops explain what happened in North Miami Beach this past Monday? Four days after an officer fired a bullet into a 20-year-old robbery suspect, the Miami-Dade Police Department — which is investigating the shooting — has yet to offer any reasoning why North Miami Beach cops fired on a suspect — and they've also refused to say which officer fired the gun.
Here's what we do know: Around 11:30 a.m. Monday, North Miami Beach Police responded to reports of a burglary at 15131 NE 13th Ave. in that town. According to incident
The homeowner told police that she saw the men ring the front doorbell and knock on the front door before moving to the back of the house after no one answered. The arrest report says the men used a crowbar to pry open a sliding glass door and enter the home. The caller said she saw the two men take some
When police arrived, they found Dwanaunne Williams, 20, and Olajuwon Baker, 23, as the crime was in progress.
What happened next is fuzzy. Police
The arrest report strangely does not mention the fact that one of the cops — and MDPD has not said who — fired a bullet into Williams' body before arresting him. And an arrest report for Baker also contradicts the story police told the Miami Herald Monday.
Despite being shot, Williams has been charged only with armed burglary and resisting an officer without violence. Baker was given an extra charge of attempting to kill or injure a police dog. Both men have been arrested in the past on burglary charges.
On Monday, the department told the Herald that the two alleged burglars tried to get into their getaway car before police surrounded them. The cops maintain that Williams and Olajuwon's car never left the North Miami Beach property where it was found — but for some reason, one of the cops fired a bullet into the car. At this, the cops say, Baker took off running and was later tracked down by a police dog, which bit the suspect in the leg.
But neither of the arrest affidavits for Williams or Baker explains why the bullets were justified. In shootings by police, officers typically state that suspects threatened them with weapons, refused to comply with orders, etc. — MDPD has said nothing about what motivated the shooting.
Earlier in the week, the department declined to tell the Herald why one of the cops shot Williams, and MDPD has not answered repeated requests from New Times to explain the incident.
An MDPD spokesperson said that New Times' request to learn the name of the officer who fired his gun had been forwarded to the county's Homicide Bureau and that the department could not release the officer's name at this time.
Remarkably, the Herald reported earlier this week, police huddled for hours at the site of the shooting Monday but did not tell the public what had transpired.
“What happened on the property when the shots were fired, we don’t know that yet,” MDPD spokesperson Alvaro Zabaleta told the Herald earlier this week. “But [the car] never got to leave the property.” (Zabaleta did not respond to a message from New Times asking for clarification.)
The department maintains that Williams' car wasn't moving when the cops fired into it. Shooting into a moving vehicle is frowned upon in law enforcement circles because injuring or killing someone controlling a moving vehicle turns it into a
But the stonewalling hasn't ended there: On Tuesday, the Herald spoke to a lawyer representing one of the officers involved. That lawyer, David Macey, declined to reveal the name of the officer he's representing or what he maintains his client even did. But despite those caveats, Macey told the Herald that he "can confirm the one that I represent acted completely appropriately."
Macey did not respond to a phone call and an email from New Times.
As for Baker, cops said on Monday that he had been sitting in the passenger seat of the car before peeling out and fleeing once the cops began mysteriously firing bullets. But an arrest report, authored by Perigny, says Baker never got into the car at all. Instead, Perigny wrote that he "made eye contact with the defendant who was on the south side of the property behind an enclosed fence," and that once the pair's eyes met, Baker bolted into a nearby alley.
The report then says a K-9 officer by the last name Wilson arrived and found Baker squatting in a shed. Perigny wrote that the cops saw Baker clutching his waistband and, worried he was carrying a gun, unleashed the dog on him. Cops say the dog bit Baker's leg and arm, and he kicked the dog twice to try to escape.
Baker is being held at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center, while Williams sits inside the Metro West Detention Center.
The police reports do not, however, say that either man was carrying a loaded gun or pointed a weapon at any cops before they were arrested.
Breaking into a home, stealing valuables, and running from cops are all bad moves worthy of arrest. But none of those crimes gives cops carte blanche to shoot without reason. The citizens of Miami-Dade County deserve an explanation as to what happened Monday.
Correction: This article previously misidentified where the officers who fired their guns worked. They were North Miami Beach Police
Here are the full incident reports: