DAVIE, Fla. (CN) - The parents of a man slain in a South Florida pharmacy sued the city whose police refuse to let them see video of the shooting even though an officer discussed the footage in detail at a news conference and publicly speculated that the shooter was justified.
Represented by well-known attorney Jose Baez, Andrea Goulbourne-Smith and Derick Smith sued the Town of Davie in Broward County Court, claiming its police department has improperly withheld surveillance video, audio recordings and other evidence in the fatal shooting of their son Andre.
Andre, 20, was shot to death by Matthew Jay Barry on Nov. 1 after they met for a Craigslist cellphone sale outside the CVS pharmacy in Davie, according to police.
Andre’s parents say evidence they want to see has “already been placed in the public domain by defendant and its agents.”
In a news conference last week, Major Dale Engle, captain of the police operations bureau, described the pharmacy surveillance video in detail and began “gratuitously offering speculative motives and defenses” for the shooter, according to the complaint.
Engle said that Andre Smith had followed Barry inside the CVS store and that Barry “feared for his life.”
He said the surveillance video "shows Smith pursuing Barry around different displays” in the store, and that the two men were involved in a physical altercation just before the shooting.
According to the transcript in the court record, Major Engle added: “From the interviews that we received, I think that Barry felt they [Smith and his associate] were going to try and get the phone back after there was the exchange of money ... and that these two individuals may flee with both the money and the phone ... [b]ut that is purely speculation on my part."
Smith was unarmed when Barry killed him, his parents say.
Baez, who rose to national prominence defending Casey Anthony against child-murder charges, says that Barry was the first to make physical contact in the altercation with Smith. Andre’s parents say that given the officer's public play-by-play analysis of the surveillance video, police have no right to withhold the footage from them.
Requesting an expedited hearing, Smith's parents say the town and its police have violated Florida's Public Records Act and exhibited a “failure to conduct a fair and impartial investigation.”
One of the first police officers with whom Andre’s mother spoke “told her not to allow the media to make it into a race-thing, thereby denying race as a possible motivating factor before the investigation was fully underway,” the complaint states.
Smith was black; Barry is white.
An attorney for the Davie Police Department said the department has no legal obligation to release the requested evidence to the family until the investigation is complete.
“I don't know what law school [the plaintiffs' attorney] went to ... because the Florida public records law is [Chapter] 119, the victim's right law is [Chapter] 960. Neither of those give a victim's next of kin an absolute right to see anything prior to the investigation being done," attorney Gregg Rossman said in a statement.
Major Engle said in response to Ms. Smith's criticism of the police department: “I can't imagine what this poor woman is going through. But let us do our job.”
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