Amid Ferguson Conflict, Activists Decry Miami Cop Rehired After Killing Travis McNeil

Categories: Crime

Photo by Tim Elfrink
Sheila McNeil holds a poster showing her son, Travis, who was unarmed when a Miami police officer shot and killed him three years ago.
As Ferguson, Missouri, has descended into a nightmarish vision of a dystopian police state, few have watched the growing clashes between protesters and authorities with a perspective quite like Sheila McNeil's. As a young woman in Overtown, McNeil lived through Miami's own version of Ferguson -- the McDuffie riots that tore through the neighborhood in 1980. And three years ago, a police officer shot and killed McNeil's unarmed son, 28-year-old Travis McNeil.

Worst of all, the very same day that the unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was fatally shot in Ferguson, McNeil got word that Officer Reynoldo Goyos -- the Miami cop who had been fired after killing her son -- would be rehired and awarded all of his back pay.

It has left McNeil reeling and reflecting on the knife's edge that Miami sat on when her son became the seventh black man killed by cops in seven months in 2010-11.

"It was a slap in the face," says McNeil, sitting in her tidy Wynwood apartment on a recent weekday and holding an old photo of Travis. "It was really difficult to watch what's happening up there in Ferguson and knowing there's no justice here in Miami either."

McNeil was born in Virginia but moved to Miami as a child with her mom, three sisters, and a brother. They settled in Overtown, which in 1980 erupted into violence. The spark was a black man named Arthur McDuffie, who was killed by four white cops. When the officers were acquitted of criminal charges, riots broke out.

"It was crazy and scary," McNeil recalls. "I remember windows shattering, fights in the street. My mother made us all stay indoors."

Three decades later, when McNeil found herself at the heart of another police injustice, she was determined not to see the same reaction. Her son was killed during a late-night traffic stop on Feb. 10, 2011. Police claimed he refused to show his hands, prompting Goyos to shoot him multiple times, killing McNeil and severely wounding another man in his car. Investigators later found that neither McNeil nor his passenger were armed.

As protests grew over his death and the six other fatal police shootings, Sheila McNeil helped lead marches and rallies and preached peaceful responses. "I didn't want my son's name associated with more violence," she says.

Goyos was later fired after a review board found the shooting was "unjustified." Chief Miguel Exposito was also forced out over the string of deadly shootings. And the Justice Department found last summer that the Miami Police Department had used excessive force in the killings and ordered a federal monitor.

But Goyos will now get his job back. An arbitrator sided with the police union, which argued that the new chief, Manuel Orosa, didn't have just cause to can him over the shooting.

Miami PD refused to provide Riptide with the arbitrator's report or the amount of back pay Goyos will receive, citing an ongoing legal review. But advocates are outraged by the move.

"It just deepens distrust in the community because it gives the perception that police will never be held accountable," says Larry Handfield, an attorney and former member of the Civilian Investigative Panel, which looks into complaints against police. "It's the same root issue, whether in Ferguson, Missouri, or Miami, Florida."

McNeil says she's now concentrating on an ongoing federal lawsuit against the city over her son's death and trying to focus on the positive, like Exposito's firing and the peaceful protests after her son's death. Travis' birthday was earlier this month, and the family gathered at his grave.

"You try to change things for the better," she says. "But I worry it will never change, because police still come to this neighborhood only when something bad happens, when someone gets shot. It'll never really change until they don't approach our neighborhoods that way."

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and the Miami Beach officer Eliut Hazzi, who brutally attacked a gay man and a witness, has also got his job back... Even after the city had to pay $75K just to the witness to settle the case an undisclosed amount for the first victim... this is corruption of biblical proportions, and the establishment from media to the president don't care about this.  the police in Miami-Dade are worse than any criminal out there.

DRAKEMALLARD.0 topcommenter

You know what I see when I look at Israel Hernandez America's got a sad future ahead of it.He was engaged in defacing someone's property, and knew it, and ran His friends explained that they were using drugs together before they went out to vandalize.His relatives seem to forget that he was caught defacing private property. His friends Felix Fernandez and Thiago Souza said they had been serving as lookouts when he was seen by police. He was caught commiting a criminal act.I can only assume these people believe that vandalizing property and disobeying the police is an acceptable way of life. They continue this protest because they can't understand that most of society thinks his behavior is unacceptable and against the law.Teenager painting on walls is grounds for shots fired and or electrocution..this my friends is why we rate last in education. Just plain dumb.

This is not art it is Criminal Damage to property and this little
criminal decided to fight the law and as the song goes the law won.
People are cheering for this persons deviant behavior. Our society is
circling the drain of it's own destruction. It's called vandalism. Then
fleeing and alluding. If you want to express yourself do it on a canvas
or your mothers house. So let me get this straight, if the graffiti kid
complied, didn't run away, and listed to the police officers request to
stop, he would be alive today. Sounds to me if you comply, do as the
police say, take the arrest and possibly fight your charges in court,
you will more than likely come out of this situation without being tased

These people need to understand this behavior may be acceptable in their native country, but it's NOT acceptable in the US. They need to CHANGE their thought process to comply with the country they sought so diligently to uproot their entire life to move here.He was and is a criminal and was treated that way.i wish everyone would take turns spraying graffiti on their house and vehicles. after years of constantly cleaning off and removing the paint, maybe they'll understand what their twerp criminal did was wrong.

frankd4 topcommenter


...............i think my take on this is WHOM is to blame for these communities NOT being safe for its citizens AND its police and fire and other first responders ?

every accused alleged CRIMINAL has a right to DUE PROCESS yes and therefore DEADLY FORCE simply circumvents all of that indeed BUT the community itself has to be considered a factor

the US MILITARY itself has admitted many many IRAQI civilian non-combatants HAVE BEEN KILLED - think about that - and YES some of these american communities ARE very dangerous,  as dangerous as IRAQ indeed

that simply leave it in the HANDS of the police to decided


@DRAKEMALLARD.0 I hope you get shot in the face next time you get a speeding ticket, you worthless piece of s@#$.



Vandalism, drug use, or fleeing from the police after what amounts to nonviolent crime, hardly constitute crimes that warrant anything remotely close to the use of lethal force.

It's also wrong to conflate socioeconomic issues with any instance of possible misuse of lethal force in carrying out the law.

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