FBI investigates 13 police in Miami shooting coverups

Saturday, September 8, 2001

MIAMI -- Thirteen current and former Miami police officers were accused in an indictment unsealed Friday alleging they helped cover up wrongdoing in police shootings in which three people died.

All were veteran officers assigned to special enforcement teams at the time of the shootings, which resulted in three deaths and one injury during the late 1990s. At least three shootings involved police planting guns at the scene, and officers are charged with lying, prosecutors said.

Eleven were arrested or surrendered Friday on an indictment charging them in a plot to obstruct justice and violate civil rights. Two retired officers pleaded guilty at sealed hearings earlier in the week to conspiracy. They are cooperating with the investigation.

"These officers put a stain on the badge of every hardworking, honest, faithful, honorable police office who puts his or her life on the line every single day," U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis said.

Miami police responded by asking the Justice Department for a top-to-bottom review of departmental procedures. Similar investigations were launched after police came under scrutiny in Los Angeles, Cincinnati and the District of Columbia.

Court appearances were expected later Friday in downtown Miami.

The arrests expanded on a March indictment charging five Miami SWAT officers with conspiracy to obstruct justice for allegedly lying to investigators after a 73-year-old man was killed in a hail of 123 bullets during a 1996 drug raid.

Shots narrowly missed his 14-year-old granddaughter. Police said the man fired first. No drugs were found in the house, but some were found outside a window.

The FBI said the investigations also involved gun "throw-down" cases involving the fatal shootings of two young black men after a smash-and-grab purse snatching on a downtown expressway ramp, a fatal inner-city shooting and the wounding of a homeless man who officers said was holding a weapon to the head of a friend. It actually was a small radio.

Lewis said the indictments reveal the officers "planted weapons, they lied about their roles in the shootings, they lied about what they saw, they falsified reports, they tampered with crime scenes."

He also said the officers stole money, guns and other property from people in unrelated cases and later used the guns to plant as phony evidence at police-involved shootings.

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