Miami Still in the Thick Over 130-Round Shooting

     (CN) – A woman whose son was shot 130 times by police may get to pursue claims against Miami after a federal judge deferred fully resolving the case.
     Miami police had intercepted Gibson Belizaire while investigating a reported domestic dispute on the afternoon of Aug. 14, 2010. After allegedly firing a gun at the officers, however, Belizaire fled to a vacant lot and soon found himself surrounded by police including canine units, SWAT teams, and Officers George Diaz, Eric Guzman, and Pierre Cazassus.
     “At no time during this standoff did the police request that Mr. Belizaire drop any weapons he had and surrender himself peacefully,” the ruling states, summarizing the allegations of the complaint. “Instead, the officers without warning fired approximately 130 rounds at Mr. Belizaire. Rounds fired by Officers Diaz, Guzman, and Cazassus struck Mr. Belizaire in the top of his head and the side of his temple, killing him.”
     Belizaire’s mother, Julina Belizaire, sued Diaz, Guzman, and Cazassus for excessive force. She also claimed that Police Chief Miguel Expozito and the city of Miami had adopted an unofficial policy tolerating the use of excessive force by police officers in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
     U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno dismissed all but two counts against Miami on Tuesday, deferring a ruling as to whether the city can be sued for battery and condoning the use of excessive force.
     “In this case, Ms. Belizaire does not contest the fact that Officers Diaz, Guzman, and Cazassus were acting within the scope of their discretionary authority when they shot her son,” Moreno wrote.
     The judge distinguished Belizaire’s case from ones where the officers were not “looking for an armed, dangerous felon.”
     “In this case by contrast, Mr. Belizaire had fired at police officers and was believed to be armed during the time that he remained in the vacant lot,” Moreno wrote. “Though Mr. Belizaire may not have posed an immediate threat, he did in fact pose a threat.”
     As such, the officers are entitled to qualified immunity, according to the ruling.
     With regard to the claims that the police chief willingly promoted a culture of police brutality, Moreno ruled that the complaint failed to prove that Exposito’s actions led to her son’s shooting.
     Belizaire’s mother cited six fatal police shootings that occurred while Exposito led the department, but she failed to show that they were unjustified, the court found.
     Though Moreno also cleared Miami on a negligent retention claim, he elected to resolve the two remaining counts, alleging battery and the unofficial policy, “at a later time.”

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