Miami Police shootings: Ex-FBI chief lumps dogs in with people

Sheila McNeil couldn't believe what she was seeing printed in black-and-white.

It was a recent Tuesday night in an Overtown community center, and McNeil had come to hear a presentation by Paul Philip, an ex-FBI chief hired to investigate the Miami Police Department's fatal shootings of seven black men since last summer.

McNeil's son Travis was the most recent to die by a police bullet, and it was her first chance to meet Philip, a man she hoped would hold the department accountable.

So she was surprised when he announced that his research showed that under current Chief Miguel Exposito, police weren't shooting more often than they had under ex-Chief John Timoney.

Then she saw his report.

The first entry in Timoney's section read, "Dog Shot by Officer." So did the second. And the eighth. And the tenth.

"It was crazy to see him even associate the life of a person with the life of a dog," McNeil says.

Philip didn't respond to multiple messages seeking comment. Christina Fernandez, a spokeswoman for the city, says the report's aim was "to capture information regarding each time a Miami Police officer fired his or her weapon in 2009, 2010, and 2011."

But in a March 22 interview with the New York Times, Philip said he believes statistics show Exposito's cops aren't shooting more often. "The data seems to support the chief," Philip told the paper.

Indeed, the report Philip handed to McNeil showed that Timoney's cops fired weapons 13 times in his last year on the job, while Expo's boys have fired 14 times.

But the report begs the question: Doesn't it matter who — or what — they're shooting at?

Timoney's officers shot five dogs, while Exposito's killed seven men.

McNeil says she was shocked by the report — and worried by its implications.

"When he opened his mouth, his whole demeanor said he was there for the City of Miami," she says. "He's supposed to be an unbiased investigator. But he's not."

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink