A West Palm Beach couple who filmed Monday morning’s deadly officer-involved shooting on South Beach has accused officers of intimidation, destroying evidence and twisting the facts in the chaos surrounding the Memorial Day shootings – a charge that police officials say they know nothing about.
Meanwhile, a South Carolina man charged with DUI in a second officer-involved shooting that morning says he is innocent.
On Thursday, The Miami Herald spoke to the couple that saw the end of the 4 a.m. police chase on Collins Avenue, then watched and filmed from just a few feet away as a dozen officers fired their guns repeatedly into Raymond Herisse’s blue Hyundai. They say the only reason they were able to show the video to a reporter is because they hid a memory card after police allegedly pointed guns at their heads, threw them to the ground and smashed the cell phone that took the video.
The three-minute video captured on Narces Benoit’s HTC EVO phone begins as officers crowd around the east side of Herisse’s car with guns drawn. Roughly 15 seconds into the video, officers open fire.
Benoit filmed the incident from the sidewalk on the northeast corner of 13th Street and Collins Avenue, close enough to see some officers’ faces and individual muzzle flashes.
Shortly after the gunfire ends, an officer points at Benoit and police can be heard yelling for him to turn off the camera. The voices are muffled at times. The 35-year-old car stereo technician drops his hand with the camera and hurries back to his Ford Expedition parked further east on 13th Street.
The video shows Benoit get into the car, where his girlfriend, Ericka Davis, sat in the driver’s seat. He raises his camera and an officer is seen appearing on the driver’s side with his gun drawn, pointed at them.
The video ends as more officers are heard yelling expletives, telling the couple to turn the video off and get out of the car.
“They put guns to our heads and threw us on the ground,” Davis said.
Benoit said a Miami Beach officer grabbed his cell phone, said “You want to be [expletive] Paparazzi?” and stomped on his phone before placing him in handcuffs and shoving the crunched phone in Benoit’s back pocket. He said the couple joined other witnesses already in cuffs and being watched by officers, who were on the lookout for two passengers who, police believe at the time, had bailed out of Herisse’s car. It is still not known whether any passengers were in the car.
Four bystanders were shot in the gunfire and three officers suffered minor injuries.
Benoit and Davis said officers smashed several other cell phones in the ensuing chaos.
Benoit said the officers eventually uncuffed him after gunshots rang out elsewhere and he discreetly removed the SIM card and placed it in his mouth.
Officers again took his phone, demanding his video. He said they took him to a nearby mobile command center, snapped a picture of him, then took him to police headquarters and conducted a recorded interview while he kept the SIM card in his mouth. He insisted his phone was broken.