Nothing in Raymond Herisse’s past prepared his family for the explosive way that his young life ended.
He was 22 when he was killed on a South Beach street, in a frightening war-like moment that his family likens to being executed by a police firing squad.
An avalanche of 116 shots were fired by police that early May morning, leaving Herisse slumped over his steering wheel, his left side riddled with bullet wounds. In all, he was shot 16 times.
Two years and multiple lawsuits later, Miami Beach police have yet to produce evidence that Herisse did anything to deserve a death sentence.
Four bystanders were also seriously wounded in the wild pre-dawn attack, which happened amid a throng of tourists visiting for the city’s annual Urban Beach Week.
The criminal probe into whether the 12 police officers who participated in the shooting continues, amid concerns voiced in court that Miami Beach police covered up, altered or destroyed evidence to justify their use of deadly force.
In fact, their account of what happened began to unravel almost from day one. An examination of the record by The Miami Herald has found a series of inconsistencies, contradictions and omissions in the police narrative of what happened.
Among the puzzling issues:
• The officer: Police said that they first shot at Herisse because he sped off after hitting a police officer who was on bike patrol. They have yet to offer video evidence, witness testimonials, or describe the extent of his injuries.
• The videos: The security camera videos from the vicinity of the shooting, released under a judge’s order, do not depict Herisse speeding. In fact, just before the barrage of gunfire, his car wasn’t moving at all. Video shot from a window above Collins Avenue shows the car lurching down the street — accompanied by the sound of four shots being fired — before slowly rolling to a stop. After a few seconds, police officers trot up, line up along the driver’s side and open fire. The shots, crackling like a pack of more than 100 lit firecrackers, cause the amateur cameraman’s video to shake.
• The gun: Officers suggested that Herisse was firing a gun from his car. But the driver’s side window, riddled with incoming bullets, was closed, and police didn’t report finding a gun in Herisse’s blue Hyundai until three days after the shooting. Police said the delay was due to the length of time it took to process the crime scene. Gunshot residue tests later proved Herisse never fired a weapon that day, according to the medical examiner’s findings.
• The witnesses: Witnesses claimed that immediately after the shooting, police officers aggressively seized their cellphones. One video showed a police officer pointing a weapon directly at a witness, ordering him to surrender his recording device. The witness claimed officers then stomped on it. He said he was able to hide the phone’s memory card in his mouth, thus preserving the video.
• The rap sheet: Police immediately heralded Herisse’s rap sheet, which they said showed he was a thug with a history of violence. In reality, most of his arrests were for motor vehicle violations. The most serious crime he was accused of was stealing a car.
The Boynton Beach crime: Two days after Herisse was killed, Boynton Beach police announced with striking certainty that Herisse was the gunman wanted in connection with an armed robbery in Palm Beach County. They contended that the victim positively identified Herisse from a photo lineup. They did not point out that the victim had previously identified someone else, by name, as his shooter.