FA­TAL FORCE

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - REY­NALDO GOYOS

On Feb. 10, 2011, in Mi­ami, po­lice de­tec­tive Rey­naldo Goyos was work­ing with a dozen un­der­cover of­fi­cers tak­ing part in a st­ing at a lo­cal strip club known to be fre­quented by gang mem­bers.

Shortly af­ter 11 p.m., one of the un­der­cover of­fi­cers spot­ted what she de­scribed as two in­tox­i­cated men be­ing ejected from the club. Travis McNeil and his cousin Kareem Wil­liams stum­bled across the park­ing lot and climbed into a bur­gundy Kia Sor­rento. As they drove off, a half-dozen of­fi­cers, in­clud­ing Goyos, fol­lowed them, wor­ried that the men would come back and cause a dis­tur­bance, ac­cord- ing to an ar­bi­tra­tor’s ac­count that was based on wit­ness state­ments and in­ter­nal po­lice files.

“We get three or four blocks from the club, and all of a sud­den po­lice was sur­round­ing us,” Wil­liams told The Wash­ing­ton Post.

Goyos drew his gun and got out of the pas­sen­ger seat of an un­marked Chevro­let Sub­ur­ban. “Show me your hands!” he yelled.

“I looked at the driver,” Goyos would later tell po­lice in­ter­nal af­fairs in­ves­ti­ga­tors. “He was star­ing right at me. He looked like he wasn’t pay­ing at­ten­tion, like he’s very in­co­her­ent. [He] was dis­obey­ing my . . . com­mands.”

Goyos told in­ter­nal af­fairs that as he ap­proached the driver’s side door he could see that both men had their hands in their laps. But then McNeil, in the driver’s seat, reached to­ward his waist­band and then to­ward the floor­board of the ve­hi­cle, ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cer.

Stand­ing about two feet from the Kia’s open driver’s-side win­dow, Goyos fired three times — strik­ing McNeil in the chest and Wil­liams in the wrist and hip. McNeil was dead at the scene.

On the driver’s side floor­board, in­ves­ti­ga­tors found two cell­phones. There were no weapons in the ve­hi­cle.

None of the five other of­fi­cers sur­round­ing the car, who also had drawn their weapons, had fired. They would all later tell in­ter­nal af­fairs in­ves­ti­ga­tors that Goyos was the only of­fi­cer with a clear view into the car. The shoot­ing quickly drew lo­cal me­dia scru­tiny.

The depart­ment com­pleted its in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion in Novem­ber 2012. The next month, the city’s Firearms Review Board — made up of three as­sis­tant chiefs, a po­lice ma­jor, and a po­lice at­tor­ney — con­cluded that the shoot­ing was not jus­ti­fied. The board said that nei­ther Goyos nor any­one else had been in im­mi­nent dan­ger and ques­tioned whether the phys­i­cal ev­i­dence sup­ported Goyos’s ver­sion of events.

Po­lice of­fi­cials con­cluded that the lo­ca­tion of McNeil’s fa­tal wound was in­con­sis­tent with Goyos’s as­ser­tion that he saw a black ob­ject in McNeil’s hand.

In Jan­uary 2013, then-Mi­ami Po­lice Chief Manuel Orosa fired Goyos, who had been with the depart­ment since 2005, say­ing he should have sought cover in­stead of ap­proach­ing the ve­hi­cle.

Goyos ap­pealed, prompt­ing a four-day ar­bi­tra­tion hear­ing in late 2013. Goyos and his union at­tor­ney ar­gued that Goyos did not vi­o­late the depart­ment’s use-of-force pol­icy and re­asserted Goyos’s claim that he had seen a black ob­ject in McNeil’s hand.

“There was no mis­con­duct on the part of of­fi­cer Goyos,” said Eu­gene Gib­bons, Goyos’s at­tor­ney, who has de­fended many po­lice of­fi­cers ac­cused of wrong­do­ing. “He was sim­ply do­ing his job to the best of his abil­ity that evening.”

In a text mes­sage to The Post, Goyos de­clined to be in­ter­viewed and added, “It was all po­lit­i­cal.”

In August 2014, ar­bi­tra­tor Martin Soll, a la­bor lawyer, sided with Goyos’s le­gal team, writ­ing that the phys­i­cal ev­i­dence sup­ported Goyos’s ac­count and that there was no ev­i­dence that his ac­tions had vi­o­lated depart­ment pol­icy.

“Just or proper cause did not ex­ist to dis­charge or oth­er­wise dis­ci­pline City of Mi­ami De­tec­tive Rey­naldo Goyos,” Soll wrote.

Soll or­dered that Goyos be re­in­stated and re­ceive $74,400 in back pay.

“It’s been frus­trat­ing, but there is no other op­tion,” said cur­rent Mi­ami Po­lice Chief Rodolfo Llanes. “I have no other choice but to have a con­ver­sa­tion with the per­son that’s be­ing brought back and tell them that I ex­pect noth­ing but ex­cel­lent work from now on.”

In 2015, the city set­tled a fed­eral civil rights suit with McNeil’s fam­ily, agree­ing to pay them nearly $1 mil­lion.

Goyos

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