Judge: Fla. Officer Unjustified in Shooting

MIAMI --

A Miami-Dade Circuit judge has ruled for the mother of a young black man who was shot and killed six years ago by a Miami-Dade police officer.

Judge William Thomas found that the civil rights of Rudolph Morris, a 29-year-old Miami man, were violated when he was shot and killed on June 12, 2005, by police Officer Carol McKinnon.

"This marks an important day," said attorney John DeLeon, who represents Morris' mother, Mary Williams, along with Ray Taseff. "This ruling means police officers can't shoot in these circumstances with impunity."

Morris was spotted driving a car reported as stolen by Miami-Dade police. Police said he ditched the car and ran into a convenience store at 6600 NW 18th Ave. in Liberty City. Officers Guipson Balthazar and McKinnon entered the store with guns drawn and found Morris inside. He was ordered to the ground and Balthazar was starting to cuff him when Morris rose up, according to police.

McKinnon then tried to stun Morris with a Taser, but instead stunned her partner, Balthazar. In the confusion, Morris started to run for the door, knocking down McKinnon in the process. From the floor, she ordered Morris to stop, but he didn't. She fired two shots at Morris' back, both striking him. He died from his wounds.

In his ruling, Judge Thomas wrote, "Officer McKinnon's actions to kill an unarmed burglary suspect, by shooting him in the back while he was running away on foot, was unreasonable and violated the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution."

The state attorney's office investigated the shooting and concluded that McKinnon's use of force was justified because Morris was a fleeing felon.

Attorneys for Williams said they expect to start mediation with Miami-Dade County, which is representing McKinnon. She remains on the police force, working crime scene investigations. Miami-Dade County said it will appeal the judge's ruling.

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