It was one of the bloodiest moments in Miami-Dade police history: a drug sting in which four robbers were mowed down by cops in a mango grove in the Redland. The controversial June 30, 2011 operation was the subject of a New Times investigation
last summer. Now it's also the subject of a lawsuit.
The family of Antonio Andrew -- one of the would-be-criminals killed by cops that night -- has filed a civil complaint blaming 13 cops and MDPD's "shoot first, think later" policy for Andrew's wrongful death.
Incredibly, the Redland bloodbath wasn't the first time Andrew was shot. He had been hit in the head by a stray bullet on a basketball court when he was 12 years old.
The injury left him prone to spells of anger, and may have contributed to his life of crime. He became a prolific car-jacker and eventually fell in with a gang of armed home burglars plotting to rob a reputed marijuana stash house in the Redland.
It was a set-up. As soon as the four would-be-robbers neared the house, cops burst out of their hiding places. Andrew and the others never fired a shot, but were killed nonetheless.
|Antonio Lee Andrew|
Andrew's corpse was so shredded from bullets that morticians weren't sure they could prepare him for his funeral.
"His body was like a bullet pail," funeral director Lori Hadley Davis says. "He had more wounds than you could close up. There wasn't a spot on him that wasn't shot: his chest, abdomen, and head."
But what Hadley Davis immediately noticed were Antonio's hands. They, too, were shot as if he had been holding them up in surrender.
The lawsuit -- filed by Andrew's sister Charlene Benbow -- names 13 members of Miami-Dade Police's Special Response Team, including the 11 who opened fire and two supervisors. It also lists past complaints against the officers:
The suit blames the body count on poor training, inept planning, and a disregard for the men's right to a fair trial:
At the time the Defendant Officers shot Andrew, he did not pose an immediate
threat of death or physical harm to any of the officers as Andrew was attempting to run away, did
not raise his firearm and did not discharge a bullet.
At the time the Defendant Officers shot Andrew, there was no reasonable grounds
to believe Andrew was about to commit a violent felony.
At the time the Defendant Officers shot Andrew, Andrew had no idea these
shooters were police officers and, in reasonably fearing for his own safety, Andrew ignored the
commands by the officers to go to ground, instead opting to flee the scene. Andrew's belief that
these officers were armed drug dealers was the result of information provided by the police to [Rosendo] Betancourt while he was acting as a confidential informant.
The use of deadly force by the Defendant Officers to prevent the escape of
Andrew was constitutionally unreasonable and violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment
of the United States Constitution.
The suit concludes by claiming that a "shoot first, think later" climate pervades the Miami-Dade Police Department. Nearly two years after the shooting, MDPD has yet to release its investigation into the shooting.
On Tuesday, J.D. Patterson was appointed the department's new director.
"This is not a war zone. It's a city," he told reporters. "If I can resolve conflict in a nonviolent way, I would do that in a heartbeat."
Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes. Follow this journalist on Twitter @MikeMillerMiami.