Two Months After a Cop Shot Him, Michael Gavins Waits for Justice — and His Car

This past November 15, Michael Gavins was shot in the back by a South Miami Police officer during a traffic stop. As New Times detailed earlier this month, Gavins was unarmed, and an independent witness and physical evidence back his claim that his hands were in the air when he was shot. Gavins has met with prosecutors and is awaiting their decision on whether to charge the officer in the case.

In the meantime, though, he is also waiting to get his car back. It may seem like a small detail amid the huge implications of his case, but for Gavins it isn't. In the wake of his shooting, he lost his job as a security guard — and with his car still impounded months later as evidence in the case, he hasn't been able to find another.

His attorney says it points to a common issue — that police can seize and hang onto property indefinitely, even in a case like Gavins' where all charges against him were dropped except a single misdemeanor marijuana possession charge.

"This isn't a DUI or a vehicular homicide case. From what I've been told, I don't know that any bullets even hit this car. I don't see why they have to keep the car any longer," says Paul Layne, Gavins' attorney.

Prosecutors say the car might be valuable evidence, though. In an email to Layne, a county prosecutor notes that "until it is a closed investigation, it is never prudent to release items that may be of evidentiary value." 

Gavins, a former high-school football star who played at the University of Missouri, was shot November 15 while visiting friends in his hometown to watch a Miami Dolphins game. South Miami Police Officer Aryo Rezaie pulled him over, allegedly for overly tinted windows. He ordered Gavins out of the car and then moments later shot him once in the back. In a report, Rezaie says Gavins refused to remove his hands from his pants and acted "nervous" before the cop fired.

But Gavins denies that claim and says his hands were always above his head. A Coral Gable attorney who witnessed the shooting tells a similar tale. And Gavins' attorney says the bullet entry wound — located below his armpit — would be impossible if Gavins' arms were at his sides, as the officer claims.

The case has drawn mass protests in South Miami, and Rezaie has been put on desk duty pending the State Attorney's investigation. 

In the meantime, though, Gavins still has to earn a living. And Layne says that's difficult when his client can't drive anywhere. 

"He's already in a very difficult situation trying to find employment," Layne says. 

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