A tourist visiting Miami Beach was shot and killed by a police officer Sunday, and family members say it was due to a grave mistake.
Miami Beach police said they were looking for a man who was reportedly walking with a gun about 4 a.m. near Washington Avenue and 15th Street.
Minutes later, a police officer stopped Husien Shehada, 29, a limousine chauffeur from Woodbridge, Va., who was nearing the end of a five-day vacation clubbing in Miami Beach.
Shehada and the officer spoke. Unknown words were exchanged. A confrontation followed.
Then, according to police, the officer shot Shehada, who later died at Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center.
All other details remain shrouded in mystery. Police and family members have different accounts of the shooting and what happened next.
After the shooting, police arrested Shehada’s brother, Samer, and charged him with battery. Police said he was beating a woman and kicking her head.
But Samer Shehada’s girlfriend, Karlia Karpel, denies the allegations, saying she was with him all Saturday night and Sunday morning.
”Can you look at me?” she asked Monday evening, sitting in the lobby of the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. There were no visible bruises or cuts on her face, arms or legs. “Do you see any bruises? Nothing.”
Samer Shehada, a 31-year-old engineer, was arraigned Monday morning and posted $1,500 bond.
The Shehada brothers were born in the United States to Palestinian immigrant parents. Two of their uncles traveled to Miami on Monday to piece together why Husien Shehada was shot by police minutes after he, his brother and their girlfriends left their hotel.
His cousin, Najwa Ghannam, said police stopped the wrong man.
”How can an officer shoot an unarmed person to death?” she wrote in an e-mail to The Miami Herald. “They shot to kill. My cousin didn’t stand a chance.”
NO MORE DETAILS
Police did not provide additional details about the shooting and had not released the officer’s name by Monday night.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office is investigating the shooting.
In addition, the Miami Beach Police Department’s internal affairs unit is investigating what led to the shooting, according to Detective Juan Sanchez, a department spokesman.
Family members said an autopsy had not yet been done, but they had still made funeral plans, which included returning Shehada to Virginia on Tuesday.
The vacation, Karpel said, was supposed to be an unforgettable gift from Husien Shehada to his girlfriend, who accompanied them on the trip. The plan was simple: two brothers, their girlfriends, the beach and clubs. The shooting changed everything, Karpel said.
”Sunday was going to be an all-beach day,” she said. “It was the worst day of my life.”
The family has hired criminal defense attorney John Contini to sort out what they allege is police wrongdoing.
”I think it’s clear the police are desperately trying to cover up a police killing of an unsuspecting, innocent citizen,” Contini said.
Contini said that after the shooting, police individually questioned the brother and both women, asking them whether Husien spoke Arabic. He said he had already been contacted by worried representatives of the Arab League in Washington, D.C.
According to Contini, several people witnessed the shooting, and he urged others to contact him at his Fort Lauderdale office to provide testimony.