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Representatives of the Black Lawyers Association of Miami-Dade County who met last Friday with U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis were assured that federal agents are investigating whether Miami police officers should face criminal charges for machine-gunning 72-year-old Richard O. Brown in his own home. “My sense is he believes that something wrong happened,” said Jason Murray, president of the 300-member association, who attended the meeting with Lewis along with Miami attorney Gregory Samms. “He pretty much said that if the evidence turns out, and there’s reason to charge, they’ll be charged.” Among those attending the meeting was FBI special agent Steve Torres, supervisor of the Miami field office’s civil rights section. “He commented that the FBI had committed significant resources to this matter,” said Murray, a partner with Carlton Fields in Miami. The U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI declined to discuss the meeting. The assistant U.S. attorney assigned to the case is Allan Kaiser, a prosecutor who hung a bribery conviction on former Miami-Dade Commissioner James Burke but failed to convict a trio of defendants in the Port of Miami corruption case. Those defendants included the former port director, Carmen Lunetta. Brown, a widower, was shot nine times the night of March 12, 1996, during a ferocious drug raid. Officers from the SWAT team and the now-disbanded Street Narcotics Unit raked his one-bedroom Overtown apartment with 122 bullets. His daughter, Janeka Brown, age 14, hid in the bathroom and escaped injury. Officers said they targeted the second-story residence after seeing someone leave there with cocaine earlier in the day. They said they fired only after Brown fired first. But the Miami City Commission voted last year to pay $2.5 million to Brown’s daughter to settle a wrongful death suit. Commissioners received a confidential memo from assistant city attorney Charles Mays before the vote contradicting the official police version of events and recounting evidence of a possible police cover-up. The payment settled the civil case not only for the city, but for officer-defendants Evilio Nogues, Arturo Berguiristain, Ralph Fuentes, William Abraira, Eliezer Lopez, Alejandro Macias and Willie Jones. The Black Lawyers Association sought the meeting with South Florida’s top law enforcement officer after learning that key witnesses in the case, including Janeka Brown, had yet to be interviewed by federal agents. Lewis explained that agents instead have been reviewing documentary evidence in the case, and he took responsibility for the perception of inaction, said Murray. “His comment was, ‘Well, I probably dropped the ball there. I didn’t reach out to the victim’s family … to at least let them know I’m looking at this,” Murray said. Federal agents have now arranged a meeting this Friday with Janeka Brown and her Fort Lauderdale, Fla., attorney, Barbara Heyer. Federal assurances about the Brown case come as the trial of three other former members of the Street Narcotics Unit continues this week in Miami-Dade Circuit Court. Officers Jorge Castello, Oscar Ronda and Jesus Aguero are charged in connection with an alleged attempt by police in 1997 to frame a homeless man in Coconut Grove, Fla. Prosecutors say the trio planted a gun to make it look as though Daniel Hoban had been armed when he was shot, though he was not.

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