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Federal Prosecutors Will Look Into Fatal Shootings By Miami Police

Federal prosecutors say they're investigating a series of shootings in Miami, where the city's police officers shot and killed seven black suspects over the course of eight months.

The shootings, which occurred between July 2010 and February 2011, were discussed on NPR's Tell Me More in March, when then-police chief Miguel Esposito said his department had the full support of the city's black community.

The U.S. attorneys who announced the inquiry say that it's a civil investigation, looking into police practices and procedures. And acting police chief Manuel Orosa tells The Miami Herald that he has already begun to make changes at the department, after taking office in September — changes that include shrinking the size of some of the tactical units involved in the shootings.

The Herald spoke to the mother of one man who was killed. Travis McNeil, 28, was unarmed when he was shot and killed in his car in February, after being stopped by officer Reinaldo Goyo.

"Oh, that's great, great, really good," Sheila McNeil told the paper. "I'm just glad to know it's not forgotten. Right now I don't know more than I did the night he died, so I'm just waiting to hear what they have to say."

McNeil also appeared on Tell Me More in March, on the same segment with Esposito. Back then, she said:

"I just feel mistreated in so many ways by these people who are sworn to protect and serve us. I have grandchildren that I've always taught if you're ever in any trouble, you find yourself an officer and he going to help you, baby. Now, these same kids are coming to me and asking me questions about what happened to their uncle. They hear the news."

Federal prosecutors say that they will investigate nine shootings that occurred during a wider period of time. They note that police in other large cities had far fewer fatal shootings in 2010 — or none at all.

From Miami, Greg Allen reported for NPR's Newscast unit, "It's the kind of investigation federal prosecutors conducted in Los Angeles after the 1991 beating of Rodney King" — one that looks at police policies and practices, rather than targeting specific officers.

"The state prosecutor in Miami is conducting her own investigation of the police shootings. So far, no charges have been filed," Greg says.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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