Miami-Dade Police Confiscate Cell Phone after Killing Man

UPDATE: The step-daughter did not actually record the shooting. She started recording police when they barged in their apartment after the shooting. One of the cops swiped the phone from her hand and confiscated it, which is even less of an excuse to seize it as evidence.

He then forced her to sign a document saying she will eventually get the phone back. She arrived in this country from Cuba four years ago and believed she had no choice

Hoping to interview her soon.



Miami-Dade police shot and killed a man Tuesday, then confiscated a cell phone camera from his step-daughter who had apparently recorded the incident.

That, of course, is illegal unless the officers were acting under “exigent circumstances,” a legal phrase that allows officers to circumvent the law if they believe the evidence is in danger of being destroyed.

But this is the same department that deleted my footage after my latest arrest, only for me to recover it, so it’s not above them to destroy the same evidence they claim they are trying to protect.

In fact, they would have most likely have already released the video they confiscated to the public if it corroborated their version of the shooting. Or at least be in the process of obtaining a warrant in order to view the footage.

Instead, they are merely claiming the man they shot had raised a gun to them, leaving them no choice but to kill him.

The man they killed was Alexis Suarez, 47, an unarmed security guard at Miami International Airport who had been involved in an altercation at work with another man long before the actual shooting.

Police say they had enough evidence from that incident to arrest him for aggravated assault, which is why visited the apartment complex where he lived with his wife and step-daughter on Tuesday.

They claim they shot him while talking to him in the parking lot of the apartment complex after he raised the gun to them.

His wife and step-daughter claim he was sitting in his car when they shot him.

His step-daughter, Lilliana Marti, was apparently recording the incident from the apartment with her cell phone, which prompted police to confiscate it.

The Miami Herald doesn’t appear to think much of the camera confiscation, burying that detail in the 16th paragraph of its story.

Nor do they bother to inquire whether the cops have viewed the footage or are obtaining a warrant to view it as dictated by law.

And they completely fail to ask the most important question of all: Did police fear Marti  was going to destroy the footage she recorded of her step-father being shot and killed by police?

That is highly unlikely considering Suarez’s wife told CBS Miami that “this is the biggest crime that I’ve ever seen.”

Instead they are feeding us irrelevant information such as “police said they found a ballistics vest in Reyes’ possession, though it is unclear if he was wearing it” as if it is rare for a security guard to own a bulletproof vest.

The Miami Herald also said that “police said he possessed a concealed weapon permit. It’s unclear if Suarez fired any shots at the detectives.”

Let’s be clear about the term “unclear”: If the question is still unclear after they talked to police about the incident, then it’s clear he wasn’t wearing the bulletproof vest and that he did not open fire on the officers.

The Miami Herald spoke to a media spokesman as well as the police union president about the matter, two men who get paid to spin the facts:

John Rivera, president of the Miami-Dade chapter of the Police Benevolent Association, confirmed that the two detectives fired.

Rivera said he spoke with the two officers after the shooting. Though he declined to give details, Rivera said that he believes “the evidence” will prove their actions were justified.

But Suarez’s wife and stepdaughter say police did not need to shoot Suarez, who was still inside his car when they confronted him.

“This is the biggest crime that I’ve ever seen,” a distraught Marisel Dieguez told Miami Herald news partner CBS4.

Suarez’s stepdaughter, Lilliana Marti, said officers overreacted. “He didn’t even get the chance to do anything or get out of his car,” she said.

She said she filmed the shooting but said police confiscated her cellphone.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a set of guidelines backed by case law that dictates how police should deal with citizens with cameras, including on how they should confiscate a camera under exigent circumstances.

I am trying to track down Suarez’s wife and step-daughter for an interview.


About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.

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  • notliberal

    I have no problem with them confiscating major evidence, BUT IT BETTER NOT BE DELETED.

    • Difdi

      You have no problem with them breaking the law they have sworn to uphold?

      The law is quite clear on when and/or if a camera can be seized. Seizing evidence illegally contaminates it, rendering it inadmissible as evidence.

  • johnamitchell

    “Did police fear Marti was going to destroy the footage she recorded of her step-father being shot and killed by police?”

    OK. Why the hell would she record that then destroy her own recording? Smells really bad…

    • Difdi

      Hey, police destroy their own recordings all the time. They’re just projecting their own corruption onto other people.

  • steveo

    It would be good to know who confiscated the camera, was it the shooter detectives or the investigating detectives for the shooting. If the detectives that did the shooting took the camera, I would be wondering more than if the internal investigation detectives took the camera. The IAB detectives that investigate police shootings would have more objectivity toward the protection of the video, obviously than the shooters.
    just speculating, but the familiy was probably interviewed by the IAB and told them she had a recording, so that’s probably when the cell phone got taken, I can’t imagine the two shooter cops having any attention toward the recorder during the incident, but stranger things have happened.

    It seems a bit strange that a security guard would challenge two leos by raising a gun. They’re trained in this kind of thing. Good mystery.

    • johnamitchell

      Good mystery indeed. Nice points about the IA Detectives. That would make a lot of sense. Then I liked the part about the training of the security guard. One more thought… This is a good reason to immediately email or otherwise upload your footage if in this type situation. Awfully hard for the cops to confiscate youtube…

  • Difdi

    Gunshots do make quite a lot of noise, so if it’s not immediately clear to a trained observer such as a police officer whether shots have been fired, then yeah, it’s pretty clear they weren’t.

  • steveo

    I think the best way to investigate something like this is to get statements independently from the two shooters, they are saying the dead man had a gun which would be there obviously and then get the statements from the bystanders, then view the cell phone video and any other surviellence videos in the area, there might have been a security camera directed right on top of them.
    I think procedure indicates that when a leo shoots someone he has to radio that in, plus call for emt and then sit tight and not go running around the scene to find out who has cell phone videos, but I could be wrong.

    But this media article is just an indication of how bad the major media has gotten. It says “police confiscated her cellphone.” Which police? The guys who did the shooting or the investigators? Makes a big difference.

  • JoyMonsterOfLife

    Hmmm, if I was a cop that just committed murder, would I rather face murder charges or destruction of evidence charges? Please refresh my memory, which is worse?

    • Difdi

      It’s and not or. You can be charged with every crime you committed. Or even ones you didn’t.

      Seizing the camera without a warrant broke a federal law punishable by 10 years to life in prison without possibility of parole (depending on the exact circumstances of the seizure).

      Conspiracy against rights under color of law is just as much a capital crime as first degree murder is.

      • ExCop-Lawyer

        It’s not going to happen. From 1986 to 2003, there were 43,331 referrals to the U.S. Attorney’s offices for prosecution of Sec. 242 violations. Of those, 42,641 were declined, with only 690 being prosecuted and of those, only 423 being convicted, either in court or by pleading guilty.

        No U.S. Attorney is going to look forward to prosecuting cases where the conviction rate is only 61%–not if he wants to keep his job.

        Section 242 is also not a capital crime, and it would be unconstitutional for it to be made a capital crime.

        • Difdi

          How exactly is being imprisoned for life without parole or executed not a capital crime sentence?
          That is, after all, the maximum penalty for violating sections 241 and 242, after all.

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            Only if a death is involved. That’s not the case here.

          • Difdi

            So which is it? Is a statute calling for the death penalty invalid or isn’t it? You made a blanket statement. Were you mistaken?
            I never said that this particular incident we’ve been discussing resulted in a death, so pointing that out does not invalidate my point.

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            A crime that imposes the death penalty has to be based on the death of a person, or it is unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment. See Kennedy v. Louisiana, 554 U.S. 407, 413, 128 S. Ct. 2641, 2646, 171 L. Ed. 2d 525 (2008) opinion modified on denial of reh’g, 129 S. Ct. 1, 171 L. Ed. 2d 932 (U.S. 2008).

            Conspiracy to violate civil rights, without a death, cannot be a capital crime.

            I was speaking of the current facts in front of us, not a hypothetical situation.

            If you were speaking in more general terms, then yes, there is a possibility that the death penalty could be involved, but it would depend on the facts of the case. For example, in Fullerton I can see a situation where this could be the case, noting that I don’t have all of the facts of the Kelly case, nor the inclination to dig up the facts right now.

            I’m in the middle of finals, so I’m not inclined to do a whole lot of research, and I will readily admit that I make mistakes (more so now, because I don’t have the time to do a lot on the matter).

      • tinynot

        difdi- with all due respect to you, all this shit needs to dealt with on a state level, hell with the FEDS, we dont need nor want them. for anything!