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U.S. Attorney in Miami Announces Unsealing of Indictment of 11 Miami Police Officers

Aired September 7, 2001 - 11:08   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JEANNE MESERVE, CNN ANCHOR: We have some breaking news out of Miami. We're going to go there for a press conference on police corruption. Let's listen in.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GUY LEWIS, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY: ... indictments against 11 officers, defendants, indicted for their roles in a series of police- involved shootings.

We've also unsealed this morning in the United States district court charges against two retired city of Miami police officers, two officers who have admitted their guilt, their involvement in these crimes and who have agreed to plead guilty, and who have pled guilty, and are now cooperating with United States authorities.

First the indictment. The indictment that was unsealed this morning charges 11 officers, one former who's currently relieved of duty, Jessie Agara, charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, and to violate civil rights. The defendants are also charged with a host of substantive crimes of the specific crimes, including obstructing justice, false statements, perjury before the grand jury, and crimes relating to their actions as a result of the cover-ups that occurred after these shootings.

The shootings charged in the indictment are four specifically. They're outlined on the chart here. The I-395 shooting, the northwest 7th Court shooting, the 43rd Street shooting, as well as the Coconut Grove shooting in 1997. Those are the three charges contained -- the four shootings contained in charges in the indictment. The superseding indictment makes clear that during the course of the police-involved shootings, as well as the follow up investigations that occurred, these 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. They stole money, personal property and guns from people being arrested. Guns that then were later used or dropped during the course of several of these police involved shootings.

As I've said, two former police officers, William Haimes (ph) and John Ravolien (ph) have admitted their involvement in these crimes. Each pled guilty earlier this week under seal before Judge Allen Gold (ph), pursuant to a plea agreement. Both pled to a conspiracy to obstruct justice, as well as to violate civil right as a result of several of these shootings.

Now, according to the indictment, the I-395 shooting. During a snatch and grab robbery, two suspects were shot and killed. After the shooting, officers Jesus Aguero, Jorge Garcia, Israel Gonzalez, Williams Haimes and John Ravolien met at local barbecue restaurant here in Miami.

They met, they collaborated in order to get their stories straight to decide who saw what, make sure everyone understood that the subjects had guns, what colors they were, and they all agreed to the conspiracy. Thereafter, the officers did in fact claim that these two young men had weapons.

The truth was they never had guns. The guns were planted by the officers, and then the conspirator lied about the guns to the homicide investigators.

The northwest 7th Street shooting of Richard Brown. March 12th, 1996: In that case a SWAT team responded to an alleged drug sale at Richard Brown's apartment. During the raid, officers sprayed the tiny, two room apartment with 123 rounds. Brown, who was 73 years old at the time, was shot eight times. Officers claim that brown had fired, and they only fired after Brown had fired.

Indictment charges a host of false statements and obstruction of justice with regard to the cover up that occurred after the Brown shooting.

The 43rd Street shooting: Back in April of 1996. Acuna and Aguero responded on that day to a robbery. The officers chased two young men to a house near 43rd Street. Aguero fired several shots at one of the subjects, Steven Carter. Aguero then told the investigators that Carter had had a gun, and that's why he had fired his three shots at the young man.

Beguiristain claimed to have retrieved a .38 caliber Rossi pistol from behind the house where they found Carter hiding. This, again, was all a complete and total fabrication.

Here's what really happened. After the shooting, Beguiristain called officer Mervolian (ph), who's now cooperating. Beguiristain told Mervolian officer that Jesie needed a gun. So he proceeded to the house and turned a gun over to Beguiristain.

In fact, the Rossi, the weapon has been ceased some five months earlier during an arrest and search of the house of Carlos Diaz. The co-conspirators seized the gun at that house and never turned it into evidence. No property receipt, nothing.

Aguero at that time, back in November of 1995, gave the gun to Mervolian to hold, when and if, they needed a throwdown. After the shooting at 43rd Street, they needed a throwdown.

Beguiristain after the shooting retrieved the gun from Mervolian, and the rossi that had been seized some five months earlier by city of Miami police officers, was then -- quote -- "found" by Beguiristain in the backyard after the shooting.

Lastly, the Coconut Grove shooting. According to the indictment, back in June of 1997, while working a buy bust in Coconut Grove, Jorge Castello shot Daniel Hoban. Hoban was supposedly standing over another man, arguing, holding something, what the officer said he believed was a gun. Hoban was shot three times in the leg. Acuna and Aguero responded.

While on the say, Acuna radioed Beguiristain, and Acuna told Beguiristain, asked him -- quote -- "do you need me to bring anything?" That is recorded, that transmission is on tape, and we have that.

As described by Mervolian (ph) and others who are cooperating with the authorities, by that time they had already discovered that Hoban didn't have -- the man shot didn't have a gun. Instead, he was holding a small black walkman.

Aguero arrived on the scene and drops a .45 caliber pistol, an astra pistol. Again, just like the previous shooting, we've traced back that pistol to another search and seizure of an arrest of James Brown back in February of 1996. So the gun seized back in February of '96 is then planted back in June of '97 at the Coconut Grove shooting.

MESERVE: U.S. Attorney in Miami announcing the unsealing of an indictment of 11 Miami police officers, charging them with conspiracy to obstruct justice, and violations of civil rights.

The 11 officers apparently, during four different police shootings, planted weapons, lied about their roles, lied about what they saw, and tampered with the crime scenes. Two retired Miami police officers were cooperating with authorities on this. They have admitted their guilty in the four shooting incidents that were outlined this morning.

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