Five days after bystanders filmed Miami Beach Police shooting and killing a man in the middle of Alton Road during Art Basel weekend, details about the fatal encounter are becoming clearer. The suspect, 51-year-old David Winesett, had escaped a halfway house, just tried to rob a bank, and held a straight razor.
Videos shot at the scene also make it clear that one MBPD cop tried to Taser the man, but the noise of his electronic weapon likely spooked another officer into firing the fatal shots — a series of events that may have broken police policy. Now, those two officers have been identified, and the cop who fired the Taser was once involved in the most notorious shootout in MBPD history.
Officer Fabio Cabrera was the officer who fired the fatal shots, MBPD says. Cabrera joined MBPD in 2010 after a stint in Pinecrest. Cabrera passed a SWAT team training program earlier this year and won an award this year for saving a man trying to commit suicide. He has no citizen complaints in his file from his six years on the force.
The officer who fired the Taser, though, is a different story. Sgt. Philip Elmore was hired in 2006 and has amassed 15 internal affairs investigations in that time. In 2009, he was suspended for two days, records show, after IA substantiated a complaint of conduct unbecoming an officer and improper use of force against Elmore. He was suspended another ten hours later that year for similar charges. In six other cases, he received either written warnings, letters of reprimand, or verbal conferences for breaking police procedure.
Elmore was also involved in MBPD's most infamous recent shooting. The sergeant was among the numerous officers who fired more than 100 rounds into a car during Memorial Day 2011, wounding several innocent bystanders. (Along with the other officers, he was cleared by IA of wrongdoing in that case.)
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And Elmore may have sparked this weekend's deadly shooting by failing to follow protocol. Miami Beach's rules require officers to warn suspects aloud before Tasering them and to shout "Taser" so other police don't mistake the less lethal weapon's sound for gunshots. Neither appears to happen in the video of the incident.
But MBPD notes that the policy does say that cops can skip the warning if it "would provide a tactical advantage to the subject being taken into custody."
MBPD waited five days to ID the officers — an unusually long delay — because the department had received anonymous threats against them, says Officer Ernesto Rodriguez, a spokesperson. "(The chief's) concern is that we are currently investigating a threat against the officer," Rodriguez says.
Both Cabrera and Elmore are on administrative duty as Miami-Dade Police investigate Winesett's death.