Unarmed Man Shot Through Neck by Cop Outside Marlins Game Sues City

While the Brewers walloped the Marlins on a steamy June evening, a Miami Police officer working crowd control outside the team's Little Havana stadium pulled over a speeding silver Pontiac. The cop soon realized that the driver, 32-year-old Emmanuel Reyes, was wanted for previous traffic offenses. But when the officer tried to cuff him, he resisted. Her partner tasered the man during the scuffle, but that didn't work. And when Reyes reached below his seat, she pulled her gun and fired twice, hitting Reyes in the neck and stomach.

Reyes fell to the ground, screaming "You just killed me!" as blood spurted from a severed artery.

Reyes was wrong about that — he miraculously survived the shooting that night on June 12, 2013 — but four years later, he says he still suffers permanent physical and mental disabilities from that traffic stop gone wrong. Reyes, who didn't have a weapon in his car, is now suing the City of Miami, the cop who shot him, and her partner.

The city, though, denies the officers did anything wrong. And Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle's office has cleared the two officers involved, ruling they were within their rights to shoot Reyes because he grabbed a small tin box during the tussle as the officers tried to arrest him.

Reyes was turning onto SW Third Avenue off 17th Street around 8 p.m. when Officer Nestor Amores, who was working off-duty at the ball game, pulled him over for driving too fast. Officer Zulema Dominguez, who was nearby, arrived to assist. When the cops ran Reyes' info through the system, they realized he had a suspended license and a bench warrant for previously driving without a license.

But when they tried to arrest Reyes on those charges, he resisted. The cops say he grabbed the steering wheel like he might try to flee. Amores pulled him out of the car and took his cell phone, but Dominguez wasn't able to pull his arm behind his back to cuff him.

That's when Amores tasered him, but the stun gun had "no effect whatsoever," the officer later told investigators. 

Reyes then reached into the car to get something under his seat. "I saw him grab a small rectangular object," Amores told investigators. "I assumed it was a gun. It was dark. At that point, I was pretty much in fear for my life."

Though Amores told investigators that Reyes pointed the object at them, Reyes denies that in his lawsuit, writing he "did not ever hit the officers, try to attack them, or point anything at them."

Either way, Dominguez quickly fired two shots, hitting Reyes in the stomach and neck. Amores held his artery closed until an ambulance arrived.

Reyes spent two months in a coma after the shooting and now has permanent disabilities, according to his lawsuit. Police later recovered the object he'd grabbed: a black box containing Ecstasy pills and crystal meth.

Rundle's office ruled in May 2016 that Dominguez was justified in shooting Reyes because he'd resisted arrest and grabbed the box, putting the officers in fear for their lives.

"The driver... resisted violently as he struggled with Officer Amores and Officer Dominguez, refusing to be handcuffed," prosecutors write in their closeout memo. "The urgency of the situation... was that officers were unable to gain control of the subject as he reached inside his car for an unknown object."

But Reyes denies he ever pointed anything at the cops and says they had no cause to shoot him twice because he was unarmed.

"The city police acted improperly by using excessive force when no substantial threat was posed by [Reyes]," argues the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court June 8.

Neither the city nor the Miami Police Department comment on ongoing litigation, but the city filed a response Monday denying all of Reyes' allegations.
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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