HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Miami Cops Accused Of Cover-Up
Pubdate: Sun, 09 Sep 2001
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2001 Los Angeles Times
Author: Associated Press
Bookmark: (Corruption)


MIAMI -- In the city's worst police scandal since the days of "Miami
Vice," 13 current and former officers were accused by federal
prosecutors Friday of planting guns, lying to investigators and
otherwise trying to cover up four shootings in which three people died.

In one of the shootings, a SWAT team fired 123 bullets into an
apartment during a 1996 drug raid and then lied about finding a gun in
the hand of the dead 73-year-old man inside, the FBI said.

The investigation also involved the deaths of two young black men who
were shot in the back by officers after stealing purses on a highway
ramp. All of those charged were veterans assigned to SWAT teams,
narcotics units or special crime-suppression teams in the late 1990s.

Prosecutors said that in at least three cases, police planted guns at
the scene to justify shootings by officers.

"These officers put a stain on the badge of every hard-working,
honest, faithful, honorable police office who puts his or her life on
the line every single day," U.S. Atty. Guy Lewis said.

Lewis said the officers "planted weapons, they lied about their roles
in the shootings, they lied about what they saw, they falsified
reports, they tampered with crime scenes."

He also said the officers stole money, guns and other property from
people in unrelated cases and later planted the weapons at
police-involved shootings.

Eleven officers were arrested Friday on an indictment charging them in
a plot to obstruct justice and violate civil rights. Two retired
officers pleaded guilty to conspiracy last week and are cooperating
with investigators.

"This is painful, but this is something we have to go through to get
better," Police Chief Raul Martinez said.

All but one of the 11 indicted officers were freed on $100,000 bail.
If convicted, they face five to 25 years in prison.

Several officers refused to comment. Defense attorneys dismissed the
allegations as more spectacle than substance.

"It's like a rerun of everything we've seen before. It's a lot of
hype," said attorney Janice Sharpstein, who represents two officers.

The latest arrests expanded on a March indictment charging five Miami
SWAT officers with conspiracy to obstruct justice for allegedly lying
to investigators after the deadly 1996 drug raid. The city settled a
lawsuit with the man's family for $2.5 million last year.

The investigation also included the police shooting of a homeless man,
who was wounded in the leg. Officers said he was holding a weapon to
the head of a friend, but it turned out to be a small radio.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Terry Liittschwager