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Officers charged with obstruction of justice

Five Miami SWAT team members are accused of lying to investigators in a slaying inquiry.

Five Miami Police Department SWAT officers were charged Wednesday with obstruction of justice, accused of lying to federal investigators during a probe into a 1996 drug raid in which they fatally shot a 73-year-old man.

A federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment against Jose Acuna, Ralph Fuentes, Arturo Beguiristain, Eliezer Lopez, 29, and Alejandro Macias, 32, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

All five officers are veterans with at least 12 years on the force.

The indictment alleges that the officers engaged in misleading conduct toward FBI agents with the intent to prevent the release of information about a possible federal offense.

The officers also are charged with fabricating physical evidence and agreeing to make false statements regarding the death of Richard Brown, who was killed March 12, 1996, after the officers and another SWAT team member fired 123 rounds at him, prosecutors said.

The officers face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, prosecutors said.

Brown, a retired seaman, was shot by a six-member SWAT team trying to carry out a search warrant. The SWAT team said Brown was seen dealing drugs from his home earlier in the day.

Team members said Brown refused to allow them into the apartment and then fired two shots from a .38-caliber revolver when they burst through the door.

In response, the SWAT team, armed with semiautomatic 9mm MP5s and .40-caliber Glock pistols, unleashed a firestorm while Brown's 14-year-old great-granddaughter sought cover.

No drugs were found inside the home in downtown Miami, but a container of cocaine was found outside a window.

The officers were cleared of wrongdoing by the homicide unit, internal affairs and at an inquest. The review was routine procedure following a shooting.

Brown's family has said the SWAT team's informants were wrong and called his shooting brutal and unnecessary. The city of Miami last year settled a civil suit with Brown's great-granddaughter Janeka for $2.5-million.

The officers were placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of their cases.