Two Miami-Dade Police Officers Denied Immunity In Fatal Shootings

, Daily Business Review

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Ben Kuehne

A federal appeals court gave the green light for a lawsuit to proceed against two Miami-Dade police officers who shot and killed two young unarmed black men after stopping them for speeding in Miami's Little Haiti neighborhood.

Michael Knight and Frisco Blackwood died on Nov. 12, 2007, after 27 shots were fired into the rented Cadillac SUV they occupied. Latasha Cure, a passenger, was wounded and her statements are central in the case.

The officers asserted they were entitled to qualified immunity because they were acting within the scope of their official duty and that Cure's statements should be disregarded under the "sham affidavit" rule.

"You can't shoot speeders. You are not allowed to do that," said Miami attorney Ben Kuehne, who represents the Knight family. "It was like the shootout at the O.K. Corral."

Miami-Dade Police Officers Ryan Robinson and Michael Mendez were exonerated of any wrongdoing by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office and remain on the force. They opened fire when the rented SUV started to back up.

The three occupants of the SUV were en route from a night club. The men had rented the SUV with plans for driving to Orlando to attend a Florida A&M University football game that weekend. Both Knight and Blackwood were on probation. Kuehne said that Knight was attending Miami-Dade College.

Kuehne said the unpublished opinion on Dec. 19 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit is unusual because the court rarely rules against law enforcement on qualified immunity issues.

"The 11th Circuit is one of the strictest for challenging law enforcement on the law of qualified immunity," Kuehne said. "The 11th Circuit is among the most protective for law enforcement."

The officers and the county were sued in 2009 by Knight's family. U.S. Magistrate Edwin G. Torres, who is handling the case, denied a defense motion for summary judgment based on qualified immunity.

The one-page per curium decision was made by Judges Ed Carnes, Charles R. Wilson and Peter Fay.

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