Miami-Dade Officer Not Charged in Shooting of Kesner Liberal | Miami New Times


Miami-Dade Officer Cleared in 2020 Shooting of North Miami Beach Man

Because the officer did not provide a statement, prosecutors could not determine whether the shooting was justified.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office can't determine if a county cop's killing of Kesner Liberal in 2020 was a justified use of deadly force.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office can't determine if a county cop's killing of Kesner Liberal in 2020 was a justified use of deadly force. Photo by Miami-Dade Police Department
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Kesner Liberal's family called police to their North Miami Beach home on the afternoon of November 11, 2020. Liberal's mother had obtained a court order to commit him to a hospital because he was purportedly showing paranoid behavior. He had a gun, and she worried that he posed a danger to himself or others, according to a Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office memo. Liberal, who was 39 years old, locked himself in his room, and because there was no probable cause to take him into custody, the police left.

Miami-Dade police officers returned six days later, when Liberal's mother again summoned police, saying he had threatened to shoot his younger brother. Officers got Liberal's mother and brother out of the house, but Liberal stayed in a bedroom and refused to come out. He told an officer he had a gun but no intention of shooting his brother.

This time, the police didn't leave, and after a standoff, one of the officers shot Kesner Liberal to death.

A seven-page closeout memo signed by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle last month states that because the officer, Anthony Jimenez, did not provide a statement to prosecutors investigating the shooting, the state attorney's office could not determine whether the shooting was justified and would not file criminal charges against the officer.

"As Officer Jimenez was the only witness in a position to observe Liberal and as he chose not to give a statement, thereby depriving us of the benefit of his observations, we do not have sufficient evidence or information to determine whether the shooting was legally justified or whether his actions were criminal or not, or in self-defense or in the defense of others," the prosecutors' memo states.

After police arrived and escorted Liberal's mother and brother out of the house, one officer went back into the home to ask Liberal to come out. But he refused and stayed inside the house, still armed, according to the state attorney's office memo.

After about an hour, the officer used a loudspeaker to ask Liberal to come out. He continued to refuse. A Special Response Team arrived and set up a perimeter. Negotiators tried and failed to get Liberal out of the house.

After hours of failed negotiations, police broke a window, released a "noxious gas" to flush Liberal out, and used a robotic camera to see his exact location. They found him lying on the floor in a corner of the bedroom, unmoving and possibly unconscious. A sergeant figured Liberal might require medical attention and sent six officers into the home. The officers entered the house single-file, walked down a hallway, and broke down the door to the bedroom where Liberal lay.

Jimenez, who was first in line and first to enter, had a vantage point that allowed him to see Liberal on the floor. According to statements from his five fellow officers, they heard Jimenez command Liberal to show his hands and drop a gun.

Then they heard gunshots. Jimenez shot Liberal three times in the head and once in the shoulder.

"Other than Officer Jimenez, none of the [Special Response Team] officers were in a position to see what happened before the shots were fired," the closeout memo says.

As an officer stood on the bed and aimed his gun at Liberal, a colleague picked up a gun that was said to have been beneath Liberal's hand and placed it on a windowsill.

Miami-Dade Fire Rescue drove Liberal to Aventura Hospital, where doctors pronounced him dead.

Special Response Team officers don't wear body cameras, according to the prosecutors' memo, so there were no recordings of what happened inside the home. The memo also notes that there was "no evidence of what occurred in the bedroom that caused Officer Jimenez to fire."

"Evidence obtained in this investigation shows that immediately after the shooting, a semi-automatic firearm with the hammer cocked was located under Liberal's hand," the memo continues. "We do not know where that gun was in the moments before the shooting."

Michael Hellman, the South Florida Police Benevolent Association attorney who responded to the scene, says it's common for the officer involved in a shooting to not make a statement. Hellman tells New Times that the concern when entering the bedroom was that Liberal may have been "playing possum."

"[Jimenez] is the first guy in, his are the first eyes that see everything," Hellman says. "As he comes in, he's seeing that the guy is moving, and [Jimenez] makes a couple of commands or statements, 'Gun, gun, gun,' and at that point, he had to discharge his weapon. So the concern was for their safety and the safety of the other members of the [Special Response Team]."

Jimenez, who still works for the Miami-Dade Police Department, also fired shots in another incident in 2018.

In that case, a woman called police because she was having trouble with an ex-boyfriend, who reportedly had a history of violence. Jimenez and two other officers were called to the woman's house north of Miami Lakes. The ex-boyfriend drove away just as the police arrived. The officers followed the man, and he ultimately crashed his car. According to a separate closeout memo, the man shot and injured one of the officers, ran away, and then tried to hide in a dumpster. Jimenez climbed inside the dumpster to arrest the man, who resisted. Other responding officers attempting to get into the dumpster saw a gun near the man. Several officers, including Jimenez, shot at the man.

According to the closeout memo about that case, none of the officers provided statements about the shooting.

"There is some circumstantial evidence that suggests their decision to use deadly force could have been legally justified," the memo states. "However, the officers involved declined to provide sworn statements regarding the shooting."

As in the Liberal case, Rundle's office couldn't make a determination as to whether the use of deadly force was justified.
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