A flurry of panicked 911 calls for help last week ended with a Pompano Beach, Fla., man dead in his backyard, felled by police bullets, with family members of the slain man saying the officers aren’t investigating the shooting properly.
The family called for help with a drunk and aggressive family member who was “breaking up stuff in the house” and threatening relatives on Sept. 9.
Broward County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office deputies showed up at the home at 10 p.m. Two minutes later, 56-year-old Gregory Frazier was dead.
The department followed protocol after the shooting, placing the two deputies who allegedly shot and killed him on paid leave. But unlike the last eight police-involved fatalities or near-fatalities in Broward County, no other prosecutors investigated the scene that night.
An investigator from the Broward State Attorney’s Office, which prosecutes these cases, was not called out that night, said SAO spokesman Ron Ishoy. The on-call homicide prosecutor was consulted via phone early Saturday morning on a search warrant for the home, both organizations said, but Ishoy said an investigator was not called to the scene. It’s not mandatory for investigators to be involved in incidents like this.
BSO handed the investigation to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Monday. FDLE investigates police-involved shootings in Miami-Dade.
The Sheriff’s Department was meeting with FDLE on Monday to adopt this policy, BSO spokeswoman Keyla Concepción said, but before it could, Frazier became the first deputy-involved shooting of the year for the agency. The second was on Monday, and no one was killed.
“No other agency will have the benefit of viewing the scene before it was exposed to the elements,” said Jasmine Rand, the family’s attorney.
Rand — a lawyer with Parks & Crump, the law firm that represented Trayvon Martin’s family — said the family doesn’t understand why deputies killed Frazier. Family members say deputies found Frazier sitting in the backyard eating chicken wings as people watched from next door and inside the house.
The argument was over by then, she said. Witnesses told Rand “there was not a lot of back and forth. It was just ‘get down, get down’ and shots were fired.”
“The officers responding had a duty,” she said. “That doesn’t mean you get to shoot first and ask questions later.”
Moments before Frazier died, his sister called the authorities begging for help.
“He’s got a knife. He’s trying to hurt my daughter and my son,” Deborah Frazier told 911 at 9:55 p.m. Sept. 9.
She said her brother had been drinking all day and was brandishing a knife at her daughter.
“It’s gonna get worse,” she said. “Hurry up, please.”
Her daughter was locked in a room inside the home with her baby, and Deborah said if Frazier saw her on the phone then he’d “really get crazy.”
By the end of the five-minute call, police arrived. She told the officers her brother flashed a knife at her daughter, destroyed “everything” inside the house and was in the backyard in a black T-shirt.
While her mother was on the phone, her daughter called the police a minute later from the locked room and echoed the knife threat and property destruction her mom mentioned.
Two minutes after the police arrived, the next call came. A man repeatedly asked for paramedics for a gunshot victim. A woman screamed “have mercy” in the background.
“Who shot him?” the operator asked.
“The police,” he said. “They came for an emergency and he was in the backyard drunk with a knife, and they shot him.”
Shouting and screaming make the call hard to hear. He asked “Is he still breathing?” then the whine of emergency vehicles cuts through. That’s more police cars, not an ambulance, he tells the operator.
“They’re putting handcuffs on him,” he said. “Man, he dead, man.”
Another man in the background, possibly a deputy, shouts “He came at me with a knife,” which is met with more screaming and yelling.
The Sheriff’s Office hasn’t released any more details of the moments between when the officers arrived and the bullets were fired. The only statement said Frazier “produced a knife.” The FDLE doesn’t answer questions about active investigations.
Despite the scant information released, news reports on the shooting sparked an unusually fiery response from BSO.
Initial reports from the Broward New Times stated the deputies who responded were white. BSO posted screenshots of the article on its Facebook page and called it “irresponsible … to report unverified and unattributed misinformation.”
“FACT: Two deputies fired their weapons — one was black, one was white. FACT: Mr. Frazier was facing the two deputies when the shots were fired,” the department wrote.
BSO spokeswoman Concepción told the Herald the department was worried about upsetting an already tense racial atmosphere.
“The national rhetoric is what’s taking center stage, rather than focusing on the facts of this one case,” she said.