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Miami Beach case being investigated after police killed tourist of Palestinian descent

MIAMI BEACH — Swim trunks for the beach, T-shirts for the heat and a pair of new, black Prada loafers for going out. That's what Virginia limo driver Husien Shehada packed for his five-day Miami vacation. He was like any 29-year-old tourist vacationing with his girlfriend, his brother said.

But Shehada didn't go home with a sunburn or a suitcase full of flamingo knickknacks. The day before his flight home, at 4:30 a.m. on June 14, police shot and killed him on a palm tree-lined street in Miami Beach as he walked with his brother two blocks from the ocean. Shehada's brother said he was unarmed.

In the hours after the shooting, Samer Shehada says, all the members of their vacation party were questioned — Husien's girlfriend, Samer's girlfriend and Samer. The women were asked if he spoke Arabic. "I don't know why they would even ask that question," said Samer Shehada, 31, during an interview with the Associated Press.

The brothers are of Palestinian descent. Washington's American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee has called the question troubling and wants to know if Husien Shehada's background had anything to do with the shooting. The Miami Beach police and State Attorney's Office are investigating the shooting and won't release information until their investigations are complete.

Police cleared the officer involved, Adam Tavss, to return to duty. The day he returned, June 18, he and other officers were involved in a second shooting death, of an armed taxi hijacker.

Before this month's deaths, the last time police shot and killed anyone on Miami Beach was 2003. That man was armed with a knife.

Shehada's family and a lawyer they hired say Husien Shehada was never a threat to police. He wasn't a violent man, his brother said.

Shortly before 11 p.m. on Saturday, they went to a club and spent three hours dancing and having drinks. Samer and his girlfriend left first. By 4:30 the whole group had met up at their hotel and decided to go back out.

Walking down Washington Avenue, the men were ahead of the women, along the same street that houses Miami Beach police headquarters. Inside, an operator was taking a call from someone reporting a person with a gun on the street. Police haven't said how many calls they received, but officers were sent out to investigate.

Across the street from police headquarters, officers saw Samer and Husien.

Samer says police called out, cursing and ordering the brothers to stop. Samer said he and his brother stopped, but police fired anyway. A black and white surveillance video from a nearby club shows the two stopping behind a parked motorcycle and by a lamppost. Then Shehada drops and falls out of the picture.

Samer says they raised their hands but didn't have time to say anything before police fired.

Husien was taken to the hospital, Samer and the women were taken for questioning. Hours after the shooting, Samer learned his brother was dead.

Miami Beach case being investigated after police killed tourist of Palestinian descent 06/27/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 27, 2009 11:31pm]
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