MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) - Florida prosecutors won’t seek charges against a dozen police officers who unleashed a hail of bullets that killed a fleeing black man and injured four bystanders on a crowded South Beach street during Memorial Day Weekend celebrations in 2011.
“All of the officers were justified in the discharge of their firearms,” said a nearly 90-page report released by the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's office late Tuesday.
The decision hinged on Florida’s “fleeing felon” law, which gives law enforcement the ability to use force to defend themselves or others while making an arrest.
The release of the report comes as police around the country are under intense scrutiny for fatal shooting incidents, notably the killing of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri.
The incident, which drew national attention, began when officers stopped 22-year-old Raymond Herisse at about 4 a.m. after seeing him spinning his car’s tires in traffic. When they approached the car they say Herisse reached over the passenger side seat, the report said. Police lunged for Herisse’s arm prompting him to swerve away, hitting an officer in the process.
Later Herisse crashed into a handful of bystanders’ cars and nearly hit several more officers on bicycles before coming to a stop. As police surrounded the car he attempted to drive off again.
Police fired 130 rounds at Herisse’s car, according to the report, hitting him 16 times. After the shooting police say they found a Beretta handgun under the rear passenger seat, but evidence showed Herisse did not fire the weapon.
The incident was caught on video from nearby buildings and posted on YouTube.
It spawned a slew of lawsuits from furious family members, as well as a number of changes in how police handle Miami Beach’s predominantly black Memorial Day celebrations.
The Miami Beach police department also faces scrutiny following the tasing death of 18-year-old Israel Hernandez-Llach in the summer of 2013. An investigation into that incident is still pending.
“The family is disappointed in the outcome, but they are very happy that questions they’ve had for four years have been answered,” Herisse’s family’s attorney Marwan Porter told the Miami Herald. “Raymond did not shoot a gun at any officer.”
Last year Miami Beach police issued a policy change saying officers may no longer shoot at moving cars.
(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson; Editing by David Adams and Lisa Lambert)