Police Point Gun At Six-Year-Old Boy — and More…



It’s 6:27 p.m. — Sheila Carey and her two children are riding in a rented limo, a special treat to celebrate their outstanding report cards.  They’ve just dropped off their friend, eleven-year-old Shanyia Winn, who is now home alone taking a shower. A few minutes later, at 6:29 p.m. — the limo is stopped at gunpoint and surrounded by Key West police officers.  The mother is thrown to the sidewalk and handcuffed.  Her six-year-old son and eleven-year-old daughter are seized by the officers, guns pointed at their faces.

Shanaya Winn

Shanyia Winn

At about the same time police officers are pounding on Shanyia’s door, “When I came downstairs there was a policeman at every window with a gun pointed at me so that if I moved or my dog barked, I was going to be dead,” says Shanyia.

The police officers say they were looking for a man named Marvin Smith and for a gun.  The problem is, at the time the police claim to have been looking for Smith, they already had him in custody at the police station.  And the gun? Apparently no one ever actually saw the gun and it might very well never have existed.

It was the third of last April. According to the police report obtained by The Blue Paper, not much happened.  A limo was stopped on Fleming Street.  As to the raid on Shanyia’s house, it is barely mentioned. “As we approached the apartment,” wrote Officer David Hall in his report, “a juvenile female walked out of the apartment.  She immediately started telling us that Smith and Taylor got into a heated argument in front of her residence.”  But Renatta Winn, Shanyia’s mother, says that report is a fabrication.  “And there were a lot of people out and a lot of children,” she told us on the phone,  “When I arrived, detective Leahy had a shotgun pointed at Shanyia’s face and all of the officers had guns pointed at her and everyone saw it.”

shanaya and grandma

Shanyia Winn and grandmother Donna Winn

“All those guns.  Anything could have happened – an accident.  A gun could have fired,” says Donna Winn, Shanyia’s grandmother, who lives nearby and was Shanyia’s first relative on the scene.  “They pointed their guns at my grandma and kept her away,” says Shanyia.

Similarly the officers’ description of the raid on the limo makes no mention of its occupants.  Sheila Carey, who was in the limo, showed us the happy photos she took with the kids that day and the scars she still has on her knees three months later from her fall on the sidewalk.  We asked six-year old Zentavious if he had been afraid, “They had really big guns. I was scared.”

So what caused KWPD officers to treat children so harshly?  From the police point of view everything seems to revolve around one puzzling character:  An ex-drug dealer recently released after thirteen years in a federal prison.  A thirty-nine year old black man named Marvin Smith.

Sheila Carey

Sheila Carey

Marvin had rented the limo as a special treat for the children. “Marvin would do anything for the kids,” says Sheila Carey, Marvin’s girlfriend.  But the man is also surrounded by the scary aura that comes with a long prison term.  On March 23, after a dispute in a nightclub, Marvin was attacked by six men on Duval Street.  They beat him and sliced him several times with a knife, somehow he managed to disarm them and to escape, covered in blood.

In spite of the fact that the records show that Smith was cooperating with the police by identifying the assailants, one veteran officer, Sergeant Pablo Rodriguez, was convinced Marvin was out for revenge and that he had a gun.

He was not the only one concerned about that risk.  “It was only a rumor,” says Commissioner Clayton Lopez, “but yes, I was worried about it and I called Donie Lee [Chief of Police]. But I asked him to handle the situation with the utmost sensitivity.”

And here we are at 6:27 p.m. on April 3rd.  Marvin has gotten out of the limo he rented for Sheila’s children.  They had stopped on Emma Street, dropping Shanyia off, who walked back home to apartment 10E in Fort Street Village.  Sheila leaves with the limo and the kids. Marvin gets into an argument with another young black man, Johnny Taylor.  A woman who heard the rumor about the gun calls 911, even though she says she hasn’t seen a gun herself.

It is clear from the 911 audio that Marvin is arrested on the street seconds after the limo left.  He is taken into custody without incident.  And that’s where the troubling questions arise.  If Marvin was in custody was the paramilitary raid on Sheila’s limo and Shanyia’s home justified?

Now, there was still the gun issue.  But no one at the scene had seen a gun.  Neither the limo driver, nor the 911 caller, nor Taylor [the victim] provided statements about seeing a gun. Yet, Sergeant Pablo Rodriguez would inform Officer Hall that at around 6:30 on the 3rd of April, Laetryce Smith, Johnny Taylor’s girlfriend, had told him that Smith had pulled a gun on Taylor and herself. While we were researching this story, Police Lt. David Smith informed us that he believed Johnny and Laetryce had provided written statements about the gun.  But no such reports exist on the record.

“We never told Pablo Rodriquez about a gun,” says Laetryce.  Marvin Smith claims Sergeant Rodriguez made it all up so they could send Marvin back to prison.

Sheila Carey's children, Zamyrie and Zintaveous

Sheila Carey’s children, Zamyrie and Zentavious

The case about Marvin Smith having a gun would be dismissed by a federal judge two months later on May 30, 2014, so apparently there was no gun.

True or not, based on questionable police work, KWPD terrified a bunch of pre-teen school children who will always remember how the good police were apparently ready to shoot them dead for no understandable reason and certainly through no fault of their own.  [We will let the readers ask themselves whether they believe the same tactics would have been used had those children been white.]

“What our police don’t understand is that the context they are operating in is a lot closer to Mayberry than to NYPD Blue,” says Commissioner Lopez,  “Something needs to slap them back to reality, but I don’t know who or what could.”

His view echoes the rising anger in Bahama Village. “They try to be something they’re not.  They could never pull this stuff in a big city.  Try that in Miami.  They would get shot,” says Donna Winn.

Several of the stories we’ve come across would make one question whether some of these officers have any communication skills at all.  On October 17, 2009, four KWPD officers had a warrant to arrest 23-year-old Shimika Clark for theft.  At the time she lived with her grandmother, Yvonne Edwards, in a small house in a back alley in Bahama Village.  Since the officers were waiting in ambush in front of Edward’s house when Clark showed up, one would think they might have arrested Clark before she went inside.  Instead, four police officers decided to dress in S.W.A.T. team uniforms, slip “hoods” on their heads, and then storm grandma’s house without knocking. While yelling profanities, they used a taser on the 23–year-old, who had rushed into the bathroom in terror, shackled her up, and dragged her out of the house.

Granted the hoods were not white and pointy, but one would think that white police officers, given the history of this country, would have more sense than to put hoods on before forcing their way into a black grandmother’s house.  “What is it with these police guys,” said a teenage girl we talked to, “they get bored and they go, ‘let’s play dress up and go terrify some black people?’”

Renatta Winn and her daughter Shanyia moved to Jacksonville a week later:  “I don’t feel safe in Key West.  How could they treat children like that?  Shanyia was born with a heart murmur.  She couldn’t catch her breath.” Renatta told us she wanted to take her daughter inside to help her calm down but that Detective Leahy would not let her do that unless she agreed to let him search the house.  “He came in.  He didn’t find anything.”

Shimika Clark also moved out of Key West after her ordeal with the four hooded police officers who reportedly had said to her, “You are lucky we didn’t shoot you.”

“It is extremely difficult to strike a balance between the need to stop the drug dealing and maintaining respect for the community,” says Commissioner Lopez, “The solution is better communication, not militarized police and more Gestapo tactics.”

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  29 Responses to “Police Point Gun At Six-Year-Old Boy — and More…”

  1. Well, well, well Commissioner Lopez. You called Donie Lee and asked him to handle this with the utmost sensitivity? Really?? You could not possibly have believed that would happen. Did you really and truly trust that Donie Lee and his rabid swine pack would behave with the utmost sensitivity??? You live in Bahama Village. These are your friends and neighbors, your family. You HAVE to know what goes on there with the KWTD. On a daily basis. I used to believe you were the voice of the people, that you had a real interest. What happened to that? These people trust you. They trust that as a commissioner for the people, that you will represent them and their best interest.
    Again… What happened to that?

  2. Arnaud Girard called me yesterday evening, but I didn’t see the missed call until 11 p.m. and waited until this morning to call him back. We ended up having a long talk, ranging from his and Naja’s not having wanted to report on police stories as their predecessor Dennis Reeves Cooper had done, to the various police stories the blue paper has broken and continued to cover, to the lack self-regulation/correction/discipline within the KWPD, to the lack of pubic expression of concern by Key West city officials, which is their approval of how KWPD behaves.

    I said, Clayton Lopez nailed it when he said Gestapo tactics. But it’s been going on a long time in Key West. It was happening in Bahama Village when I ran for mayor in 2003. It’s been happening in KWPD’s dealing with homeless people, and in KWPD’s dealings with other people. And the city officials are okay with it; otherwise, they’d be raising hell about it.

    I said, from blue paper readers’ comments to police misbehavior articles, what’s got blue paper readers up in arms is cops committing crimes against citizens and nothing is being done about it. I said, I view civil litigation against the city arising out of police misbehavior as a diversion from the real problem: cops committing crimes against citizens, and nothing being done about it by city officials.

    I said, all the blue paper can do is investigate and report the police misbehavior cases fate arranges for the blue paper to engage. It is criminal prosecutors’ job to prosecute. I said, I don’t see the city officials changing, but it might change KW cops’ behavior if some of them get put in prison, which sends a message to the rest of the cops that they are not bullet proof, they can be sent to prison, too.

    I said, that’s why I keep focusing on the criminal side of the cases the blue paper is breaking, and not on the civil litigation side.

    I said, for example, looks to me cops committed crimes against Charles Eimers on South Beach last Thanksgiving. Then, cops committed more crimes right away: intimidating witnesses at South Beach, not interviewing witnesses, filling out false incident reports, obstructing justice, trying to get rid of the corpus delecti, Charles Eimer’s body, to the extent of not notifying his family and sending the body to a morgue for cremation, hoping the body would be gone by the time anyone knew Eimers had died. All of those crimes should be prosecuted; cops should go to prison for those crimes.

    Will that happen? I have no clue. It may well hang on what the Grand Jury does, and that may hang on what the Assistant State Attorneys chose to put before the Grand Jury, and what the Grand Jury itself choses to investigate, and the disposition of the Grand Jury toward wayward cops. Hopefully, the Grand Jury’s disposition is different from Police Chief Donnie Lee and his city official bosses’ disposition.

    Meanwhile, I told Arnaud, I hope he and Naja will continue reporting anything fresh which comes to them about the police misbehavior cases they already broke, and any new cop misbehavior cases which come to them. And keep investigating and reporting other cases of critical concern. Cases the Citizen, the Keynoter, the Weekley Newspapers do not investigate and break, and probably wish the blue paper did not investigate and break.

    After all, this is “paradise”. We want tourists to come here and spend a lot of money. We don’t want them to know they can end up dead and buried here. We don’t want tourists to know we have S.W.A.T. teams who go into black neighborhoods wearing hoods. We don’t want tourists to know we have S.W.A.T teams who go into black neighborhoods and set off flash bombs in homes after being told there are babies in those homes. We don’t want tourists to know we have S.W.A.T. teams who going into black homes and stick guns in children and old women’s faces. We don’t want tourists to know we have cops who taser people in the back without warning.

    We don’t want tourists to know that, underneath its well-groomed facade, Key West is a RICO operation being run by KWPD and its city bosses.

    Perhaps some blue paper readers do not know Arnaud attended law school in France, graduated, and is not a new kid on the law block, but like me, not being licensed to practice law in Florida, goes about it in a different way, which is legal.

    Did I also forget to mention that we don’t want tourists to know our waters are infested with MRSA, a horrible flesh-eating bacteria – google-image MRSA, see for yourself what local divers and physicians, and Arnaud and Naja know can happen to people who go into our ocean with a nick or a cut in their skin.

  3. Replace the whole police force!

  4. There are many professional, hardworking, honest police officers working for KWPD and we should all be grateful that they are there for us when we need them. Howevever, it is becoming more and more evident that there are a small number of officers whose behavior needs to be looked at – seriously looked at. And I’ll venture to bet that the officers who try to do their jobs professionally are even more interested than the rest of us in seeing some bad apples removed from the force. Nothing good will come of bashing an entire police force. The fact that nothing is being done about what is likely a handful of bad cops is where we should focus our concern. When public officials learn that citizens and visitors are dying and being seriously injured while being placed under arrest, that innocent elementary school children and grandmas are being held at gunpoint, and that homes of African American residents are being stormed by hooded officers dressed in S.W.A.T. gear – possibly just for the fun of it, then SOMEONE in charge should be seriously looking into it. All we’ve heard from the Police Chief is that from what he can tell his “officers have behaved appropriately” [think Charles Eimers and Matthew Shaun Murphy]. The Chief also announced last week at the CRB meeting [not long after Matthew Shaun Murphy’s fiance left the podium in tears because it was all just too emotional for her] that he is working with FDLE to REMOVE THE REQUIREMENT for an FDLE investigation when someone is seriously injured by police officers. And all we are getting out of our City Manager, Mayor and City Commissioners is SILENCE and INACTION. All we are getting out of FDLE and the State Atorney’s Office is whitewashing. I encourage everyone to communicate with public officials about their concerns. ~ Naja Girard

  5. I agree, Naja, there are good police officers in KWPD. But of the 13, or was it 14 officers involved in just the Charles Eimers incident, how many filed incident reports which did not get contracted by the bystanders’ video? How many then came forward and told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Perhaps we will have a sense of that when – and if – the FDLE report and the Grand Jury findings are made public.
    When I spoke on the phone with Arnaud yesterday morning, I said it might get the mayor, city commissioners and city manager and attorney’s attention, if steamed up citizens pack Old City Hall during a city commission meeting, and sit through the entire meeting glaring at folks on the other side of the wooden rail, and when time for closing citizen comments comes, whenever that is, each steamed up citizen spends 3 minutes letting the folks on the other side of the rail know how they feel about what you wrote above and have been reporting. City commission meetings, including citizen comments, are televised live on Channel 77, isn’t it? And later can be brought up and watched online, yes?
    You are right. Unhappy citizens need to start speaking out to the city officials. They need to put their names and faces on their protests. And they need to be Key West residents or work in Key West. I told Arnaud, for example, that I doubt city officials care what John Donnelly contributes to the blue paper about KWPD wrongdoing, because John lives on Key Largo. Arnaud said he had not known that’s where John lives.
    It may be, Naja, that nothing will cause the city officials to change they way the respond to the kind of KWPD you and Arnaud are investigating and reporting. I mean, if they have not come around yet, what’s to cause me, you, or anyone to expect they ever will come around?
    These KWPD cases are not being put to the mayor candidates (so far) at candidate forums and debates. I have interjected the Eimers case during opening and closing remarks, and sometimes in answering questions about homeless people. That tells me the folks who put on those forums and debates are not concerned about KWPD. The Lodging Association, the Chamber of Commerce, Pirate Radio, the golf course community. I wonder if there will be a KWPD question at Hometown PAC’s forum this evening at Tropic Cinema?
    Even so, it’s important to keep putting KWPD wrongdoing into the bright sunshine, so KWPD and the city officials don’t get clean away with it. But for you, Naja, and Arnaud, that’s what would have happened in these awful cases.
    In my opinion, you and Arnaud have taken the blue paper to a level far beyond its previous incarnation. You didn’t wish to do police stuff. You had no beef with KWPD when you took over the blue paper. You are not reporting from a position of having a grudge against KWPD. You are putting yourselves in KWPD’s cross hairs nearly every week. I still say a Pulitzer is in order.

  6. Read this somewhere on facebook 🙂 Sums it all up rather simply.
    “good cops who protect bad cops are not good cops”

  7. During a candidate forum this past Monday night, Hometown PAC’s chairman Todd German announced someone from Islamorada had notified him there was no sound on the livestream broadcast.

    When I talked on the phone with Todd Tuesday morning, he said they hoped the sound could be put into the video of the event, which they had intended to put on Hometown’s website in the next day or so – http://www.hometownkeywest.com. I said there was a reason for the sound not being in the video.

    Actually, there were three reasons:

    (a) Hometown had two cruise ship lovers on their panel, John Dolan-Heitliner and Jennifer Hulse, whom Hometown had staunchly defended having on the panel. Hometown via Todd German and Sheldon Davidson.

    (b) None of the Hometown panelists asked a question about the Charles Eimers case, nor about the behavior of the KWPD in various other cases also broken by Key West the Newspaper – https://www.thebluepaper.com.

    (c) Instead of putting Naja Girard, blue paper co-publisher and president of Last Stand, on Hometown’s panel, where she could go after the police, cruise ship and other environmental and prickly city issues, Hometown put Naja on a candidate forum panel next week, which is for:


    Those races and offices have little, if anything, to do with Key West government policies, operations, etc.

    To date, not one question as been asked at candidate forums about KWPD or Charles Eimers. To date, I am who interjected those issues into candidate forums.

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