On November 14, 2009, two officers pulled over a 38-year-old man at the corner of Northwest 22nd Street and Fifth Avenue in the middle of the day. At some point over the next several minutes, a tussle occurred, and Corey McNeal withdrew a box cutter. Police then shot him 27 times -- some of which occurred while cops were apparently below McNeal, firing upward.
Beyond that batch of indefinite facts, nothing else is clear of what happened that night, according to a Miami Herald report this morning. That's because the two officers involved in the fatal shooting -- Omar Ayala and George Diaz -- refused to explain what happened to investigators, who have declined to prosecute.
Why did they pull over McNeal? What precipitated the struggle? At what point did the box cutter emerge? And, most importantly, why are the trajectories of many bullets upward -- as though at least one cop was laying on the ground? All of those matters aren't clear.
"There were no radio transmissions concerning this incident, by either police officers prior to the shooting," the Herald reports prosecutor David I. Gilbert writing in his closeout memo. "Nothing transmitted after the shooting sheds any light on the interaction between Corey McNeal and the police officers."
That means we -- and prosecutors -- are only left with conjecture, one man dead, and the only two witnesses refusing to talk. "It is reasonable to conclude that Mr. McNeal became upset by the stop, whether legally justified or not."
McNeal, court records show, had had his fair share of run-ins with the law, having been arrested numerous times for drinking alcoholic beverages in public. Apparently, McNeal said he was sick of police "bothering him," McNeal's roommate said.
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But was that the reason he wound up dead? It's not uncommon for people to decline to comment to avoid self-incrimination in criminal probes, but often police do decide to give their side of the story. Prosecutors said their lack of cooperation stalled their analysis of events. "We cannot justify unknown actions," Gilbert wrote.
Perhaps, however, we'll get a few more answers if McNeal's family, who originally filed a lawsuit against the city and officers but later dropped it, decide another hand at civil litigation. Then, perhaps, under the microscope of depositions, we may finally learn what happened that night.
If you know more, send your story tip to author, Terrence McCoy.