A Miami police officer has been dismissed from the force, accused of violating department policy by shooting and killing a driver without justification nearly two years ago, police announced Wednesday.
The city’s firearm review board convened last month and found that Officer Reynaldo Goyos opened fire even though he wasn’t in imminent danger on Feb. 10, 2011, according to a reprimand letter recently issued by the department against the officer.
The review board said because Goyos violated the department's deadly force policy, he was given a reprimand letter and his employment with Miami police was being terminated.
The 28-year-old driver, Travis McNeil, died from being shot once, and the front-seat passenger, Kareem Williams, suffered two gunshot wounds, police said. No weapons were found in their vehicle, police said.
McNeil’s mother, Sheila McNeil, said she was somewhat glad the department fired the officer.
“My heart is real heavy still, because nothing will bring my son back,” McNeil said. “But to know that they thought enough to actually get rid of this officer, it makes me feel a little better.”
The Miami Fraternal Order of Police, which is representing Goyos, defended the officer Wednesday, and vowed to get him his job back.
“Officer Goyos is not being fired for breaking the law or breaking the rules,” said FOP President Javier Ortiz. “He is being fired strictly because of politics within the City of Miami.”
Goyos was part of a group of officers conducting a crackdown on gang-member suspects. And the day of the shooting, McNeil had been pulled over on suspicion of driving erratically near North Miami Avenue and Northeast 75th Street.
During the traffic stop, Goyos approached the driver’s side of the vehicle and was heard telling the driver to “show him his hands” and was heard saying “don’t do it,” police said. Then the shooting happened.
Ortiz said that Goyos had reason to open fire, saying McNeil didn’t follow Goyos’ commands and reached for a dark object that Goyos perceived as a firearm.
"My heart goes out to the deceased and his family," Ortiz said. "However, when you don't follow the directives of law enforcement, you have made a decision to place yourself in a very dangerous situation."
Still, the review board found that McNeil was struck in his rear left-shoulder area, and said that such evidence was “inconsistent with Officer Goyos [sic] statement that he saw a black object on Mr. McNeil,” the reprimand letter said.
The review board determined that Goyos violated the department's deadly force policy, which prohibits officers from using deadly force against another person unless they have a reasonable belief that they must protect themselves or another person from imminent danger.
The board added that Goyos shouldn’t have approached the vehicle. It said the officer instead should have “retreated and followed all training protocols” regarding felony stops involving armed suspects or vehicles.
Police Chief Manuel Orosa on Wednesday signed the reprimand letter, which also was initialed by Goyos to indicate that he disagreed with the findings and with the recommended penalty.
Goyos was a seven-year member of the police department.
"There is no doubt that Officer Goyos will get his job back," Ortiz said. "The Miami Fraternal Order of Police will be behind him every step of the way."
Meanwhile, Sheila McNeil said she planned to do something special next month to mark the two-year anniversary of her son's death.
“It's getting really hard, because it is coming up on the anniversary of his death next month,” she said. “It will be two years.”