Miami-Dade Cops Shoot Man in Opa-locka Holding a Screwdriver

Miami-Dade Cops Shoot Man in Opa-locka Holding a Screwdriver
Danny West via Facebook
Update: Miami-Dade Police have since named the victim as Antonio Laines and the officer as Christopher Ellison, age 37. Another witness has also told the Miami Herald that Laines was trying to surrender when Ellison opened fire.

"They shot me for nothing, man!" a man yells moments after Miami-Dade Police opened fire on him in Opa-locka this past Wednesday. In a Facebook video filmed just after the 1:15 p.m. incident at the Glorieta Gardens Apartments, the man insists he did nothing to cause officers to shoot him.

MDPD hasn't explained why the cops opened fire yet either, leaving the man — who hasn't been named yet — in stable condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital. The police haven't claimed he was armed. Instead, the police say they found only a common household tool near him after the shooting: a screwdriver.

"Information received thus far indicates that a screwdriver was recovered as evidence from the scene of the encounter," reads a statement released by MDPD late Wednesday. MDPD says the officer who fired his gun was an eight-year veteran, but the department has not yet released his name.

"The officers approached, and after a brief encounter with the three individuals, subject #1 was shot by one of the officers," the statement reads. MDPD has confirmed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating what happened.

In a clip of the aftermath posted on Facebook, the victim can be heard shouting repeatedly that he was not holding a gun and that he thought the officers had no reason to open fire. The video does not show the shooting.

In the clip, the victim also shouts out a phone number of one of his relatives. A person who answered the phone at that number declined to speak to New Times yesterday.

In the footage, the witnesses filming — one man and one woman in the apartment complex — also say they saw no weapon on the scene. They say they simply heard the cops shout, "Get on the ground!" before immediately opening fire. The victim tells the man filming that he was shot in the hand. Police have since said that the victim was also hit in the stomach.

"They hit this man for no reason," the man filming, Danny West, says in the clip. "He ain't got no gun."

"I ain't got shit," the victim responds.

"Even if he took off running, he wasn't shooting," West then narrates.

It's unclear whether police recovered any weapons from the scene. However, when the witnesses pan their cameras to a pile of items pulled from the victim's pockets, there does not appear to be a gun on the ground:
According to CBS Miami, police said they initially tried to stop a Cadillac on the street yesterday as part of an as-yet-unexplained traffic stop, but the car sped away. The cops then tracked the car to the apartment complex. After surveilling the car, the officers said, they witnessed three men try to pry the license plate off the vehicle. MDPD has otherwise simply said they approached the men and "shots were fired."

Another witness who spoke to CBS, Sharon Robeson, also confirmed she didn't see a gun on the scene.

“I don’t know if it was a chase or not. Twenty came rushing in — and zoom — and they jumped out and started shooting,” Robeson said. “All of us had to run in the building. I was upset. I understand they might have to do their job, but if no one has a gun out, why jump out where there are mothers, elderly, and kids?”

Another man arrested alongside Laines, named Christopher Wilcox, was charged with resisting an officer without violence, as well as possessing just two grams of marijuana. Both charges are misdemeanors. (Miami-Dade County in 2015 gave officers the option to issue $100 fines for possession of fewer than 20 grams of marijuana — it's unclear why officers chose to charge Wilcox with a misdemeanor, but critics say the officer "discretion" in marijuana cases still comes down hardest on black defendants.) Laines himself remained at the hospital as of Thursday afternoon and had not yet been charged with a crime. Police have not yet explained if Laines or Wilcox were driving the aforementioned car when it allegedly fled authorities in the first place, or if they were simply standing near the car when officers arrived on the scene.

Miami-area departments often provide muddy or incomplete answers when their officers shoot suspects: In February 2017, North Miami Beach officers provided no justification for shooting 20-year-old Dwanaunne Williams, and MDPD, the investigating agency, has not released a public statement about that shooting. Then, the following August, MDPD officers fatally shot 27-year-old Anthony Ford, a reportedly unarmed man, in Liberty City. The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office last month cleared the officer who shot Ford.

Three months ago, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez vetoed the creation of an independent police-oversight panel that would have investigated possible cases of police misconduct. MDPD Director Juan Perez argued that the panel was "not needed" and that there is "no widespread mistrust" of his department.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.