Miami Police Shootings Increase Tension

March 28, 2011

Korva Coleman

Seven African American men have been shot and killed by Miami police since last July and the deaths have heightened anger in the city. Two of the men were apparently not carrying weapons when they were killed. Some African Americans blame Miami Police Chief Miguel Esposito and his police department for an overly aggressive response to crime.

NPR's Tell Me More interviewed Chief Esposito today, who says despite the shootings, the greater Miami community supports him. He was immediately followed on the program by Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) who vehemently disagreed, saying anger in Miami's African American community is so high that she's had to attend community meetings and plead with residents to remain calm. Wilson has asked the Justice Dept. to look into the police shootings.

Miami Herald reporter Charles Rabin tells NPR there's more brewing underneath the surface: Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado initially supported Chief Esposito when the first shootings occurred last summer. But as the community got more upset over the deaths, Mayor Regalado backed away from Esposito, and now wants him to leave. Esposito says he's not stepping down.

Meanwhile, a civilian commission wants to review police documents on the first police shooting last July. DeCarlos Moore was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop after he ignored an officer's order and returned to his car. He had no weapon. Police Chief Esposito refused the commission's request because both police and the Florida state attorney's office are still investigating. Now the Miami Civilian Investigative Panel may go to court to try to force the department to release information. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.