Community leaders held an emotional public meeting Tuesday night over concerns about the deadly police shooting that left one man dead and many others with questions.
Despite plenty of anger over the shooting of 31-year-old Decarlos Moore during a traffic stop by rookie officer Joseph Marin, residents mostly demanded answers as to why and how the fatal shooting happened.
“You are to be commended for not starting a riot!” screamed Overtown activist Georgia Ayers at the crowd. Then she turned to Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito and said “You police officers remember when you put that gun in your holster and that badge on your side, you ain’t Jesus!”
The crowd roared with approval.
Raw emotions came out as the 150 or so concerned Overtown citizens had a rare chance to come face to face with Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado – this meeting was his idea – and his nervous police chief just one day after the 34-year-old Marin killed Moore.
Witnesses said they saw the shooting and Marin’s reaction.
“He was putting his gun in the holster grabbing his head like ‘oh my god, oh my god’ – that’s all he kept saying, like, ‘wow, what have I done!'” recalled Antwone McKnight, a friend of Moore’s.
Authorities know Miami has a history of unrest when police officers shoot black men. Despite that history, the vast majority of those making themselves heard do not advocate any unrest, at least widespread unrest, and, in fact, are calling for calm to give the investigation a chance to finish.
That relative calm is largely due to Regalado’s policy of early and frequent dialogue. He went to the crime scene Monday immediately after the shooting to show he cares.
“I don’t see tension in the community,” the Mayor said as he was going in to the meeting. “They have legitimate concerns. I am confident that we don’t have the tension of the 80s and 70s today.”
In the hot seat is Chief Exposito, whose predecessor, John Timoney, dramatically reduced the number of times police fired their weapons.
“I want to get to the bottom of this and I want the truth,” Exposito told the crowd. And he reminded the crowd, who may not know him, that he stood up against corruption within his own police department in the late 90’s and was severely punished for it – until a personnel review years later under Timoney cleared him and gave him back pay.
“My cousin was shot down like a dog!!” shouted youth leader Charles Jackson, who says he’s a cousin of Moore. Jackson was among many who said Moore’s prison record – nearly 15 years for second degree murder and more – is irrelevant.
Jackson said, “His voice has been silenced,” Jackson told the crowd. “But if he were here, he would say ‘Mr. Mayor, bring me justice!'”
Yet still unanswered is whether Officer Marin knew of Moore’s criminal record when he was pulling him over and whether that knowledge may have given the cop a quick trigger finger.
But Miami Police and City Hall promise emphatically a fair and complete investigation.