Infrared video of a botched sting operation shows police officers executing four men, including their own informant in a hail of bullets while they lay on the ground. Despite the informant having a recording device hidden in his watch, the watch mysteriously "disappeared," leaving investigators with no evidence to press charges against the officers.
From NBC Miami:
Miami-Dade County has never witnessed anything like it – infrared cameras rolling from aircraft during a muggy June night in 2011 as police killed four men, including their informant, in a botched sting operation in the Redland.
Three years later, the office of Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, finding “a number of unusual, counterintuitive, suspicious, and/or disturbing factors,” ruled it cannot say definitively that three of those police killings were justifiable. Yet, they determined, no charges can be filed against the officers.
“Are there question marks? Of course there are question marks. There are too many question marks,” Fernandez Rundle said in an interview with the Team 6 Investigators.
More than 100 officers staked out a county-owned home that night, where confidential informant Rosendo Betancourt lured three men suspected of home invasions. He told them drugs and money awaited. Betancourt offered to help police, saying he was concerned about the escalating level of violence in previous home invasions involving at least one of the other men.
When a Miami-Dade officer shoots someone, the agency’s homicide detectives investigate the officer-involved shooting. Fernandez Rundle says police officers investigating their own can be a conflict of interest and she wants the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to take over those investigations.
Still, Fernandez Rundle said, she can’t be certain a different agency investigation would have produced a different result in this police-involved shooting.
“I wouldn’t jump to there could be charges filed, but what I would say is this: We wouldn’t be asking these questions,” Fernandez Rundle said.
Questions like whether Betancourt uttered the code phrase “I’m heading to Disney World” – identifying him to police as the informant – in the seconds before he was shot to death.
Betancourt had used that same code phrase three times earlier that day. But when his life was on the line, police claim that he was silent. Instead, one of the officers who shot him told investigators, he reached for a gun in his waistband, prompting police to open fire.
“There’s a lot in there that just leaves big holes and big questions,” Fernandez Rundle said.
When asked why she didn’t charge the police officers, Fernandez Rundle said: “There was not a crime that we could prove.”
Even though Betancourt, 39, cannot speak from the grave, an audio recorder hidden in a watch police gave him might have shed some light on what happened that night. But the watch Betancourt was wearing in surveillance video earlier that evening disappeared.
“That would have been a critical piece of evidence,” said Jose Arrojo, chief assistant at the state attorney’s office.
Arrojo and Don Horn, also a chief assistant state attorney, said the watch could have revealed whether or not Betancourt made any statements – including the “Disney World” code phrase – as he was surrendering to police.
But prosecutors said, absent other evidence, they were bound to accept the statement of a live officer describing a scenario where the informant went silently to his death as he reached for a gun.