Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, who in 25 years has never charged a police officer for killing someone while on duty, has quietly cleared another cop for killing an unarmed man.
In a previously unreported April 17 close-out memorandum, Rundle's office ruled that undercover Miami-Dade Police Officer Eduardo Pares was justified in fatally shooting 27-year-old Anthony Ford in Liberty City last year. The report confirms Ford was unarmed when he was killed but says Pares had reason to fear for his life in the encounter.
"The investigation determined that it is reasonable to believe that Mr. Ford's actions, flight from police, and refusal to show his hands and obey commands put fear in the mind of Sgt. Pares," Rundle wrote. "To prevent injury to himself and/or others in the immediate area, Sgt. Eduardo Pares was justified in using deadly force by firing his weapon. Therefore, no criminal charges will be filed."
Ford's shooting inspired a small "Justice for Anthony" protest in 2017. The prosecutors' close-out memo confirms what his family maintained after the shooting — that he was not carrying a weapon when he was killed. (Jose Arrojo, one of the assistant state attorneys who signed off on the report, previously worked in the 1990s as the in-house lawyer for the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, MDPD's union.)
Rundle's decision comes just as Liberty City is reeling from a fatal shooting that inspired a school walkout. In response, the City of Miami and Miami-Dade Police Departments have teamed up to push "Operation Blue and Brown," a joint effort they claim will help cut down on crime and gun violence in the area.
But since that operation went into effect, MPD embarrassingly arrested two innocent suspects in that fatal shootout and then quickly had to release them. And while that was all happening, Rundle's office quietly cleared Pares for his fatal Liberty City shooting.
According to the prosecutors' report, on August 30, 2017 two undercover MDPD cops — Gerardo Alayon and Alberto Diaz — stopped Anthony Ford and his brother, Roddrick Ford, who were in a red Nissan Maxima that Anthony was driving. The report does not say why the cops initiated the traffic stop, but it says the officers then "smelled an odor of marijuana" and asked the men to step out of the vehicle. Roddrick gave his correct name, but the report says Anthony claimed he was instead a different brother, LeAntwan Ford. Rundle's office noted that Anthony Ford was on probation for a robbery charge at the time.
After police discovered "active warrants," they began handcuffing the two. They succeeded in cuffing Roddrick but say Anthony fled before they were able to detain him. One undercover detective said sprinted after Ford but lost him and radioed for other officers to search for him.
Pares, meanwhile, was working a similar undercover duty nearby. The report says Pares, who was riding with another officer, Erick Lopez, saw a man who looked like Anthony Ford dash by their car. Pares jumped out and chased the man on foot while Lopez parked the car. Local security footage apparently caught Ford at one point sprinting away, while the report says the undercover Pares shouted, "Police!" and identified himself just before Ford tried to scale a fence to escape.
But Ford instead stopped and turned to face Pares. Rundle's report says the officer "saw Anthony Ford place his right hand inside his waistband as he turned around. Sergeant Pares then saw Anthony Ford make an abrupt movement upwards with his right hand, at which time Sergeant Pares discharged his firearm multiple times, fatally striking Ford."
Lopez, Pares' partner, then arrived and handcuffed Ford, who was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center. He was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Because Ford stuck his hand in his waistband, Rundle writes, Pares was reasonable to feel threatened. But Ford was unarmed. "No firearm was located on or near Mr. Ford following the shooting," the report reads.
The latest ruling is sure to give more fuel to activists who say Rundle's office protects police officers and prison guards who kill on the job. Before last year, Rundle had never charged a cop for any on-duty shooting. That changed when her office charged North Miami Police Officer Jonathan Aledda with attempted manslaughter for the nonfatal shooting of Charles Kinsey, an unarmed, black behavioral therapist who was shot because he was trying to help an autistic man out of the middle of the street.
Rundle drew heavy criticism after clearing four state prison guards who oversaw the death of Darren Rainey, a schizophrenic black inmate whom witnesses say was scalded to death in a modified prison shower as punishment for defecating in his cell. That decision enraged Rundle's own political party, the Miami-Dade County Democratic Executive Committee, which asked her to resign last year. She ignored that request.
Since then, amid rumors she's eyeing a run for a higher office, she has charged MPD Officer Mario Figueroa with assault after he was filmed trying to kick a handcuffed man in the head. This month she also charged a state prison guard for pepper-spraying an inmate and falsifying a report about it.
But she also cited "excited delirium," a condition many doctors call "junk science," to clear Coral Gables cops who repeatedly tasered a man before he died. Likewise, federal prosecutors charged a juvenile detention officer this year for allegedly orchestrating a fatal beating despite the fact that Rundle in 2017 cleared the officer in the same incident.
A New Times investigation last year also noted Rundle's office routinely lets police-shooting investigations sit open for years, effectively preventing families from filing civil rights lawsuits before state statutes of limitations run out. After that report, Rundle closed one long-open case and promised to reform the office's policies. Her office closed the Ford case in less than a year.
It's also worth noting that in February, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez vetoed the creation of a civilian-led police-oversight panel after MDPD Director Juan Perez publicly argued that the panel was "not needed" and that there is "no widespread mistrust" of his police department.
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