Miami Beach police officers who shot and killed a man who hacked a fellow officer with a meat cleaver have been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing.
The gruesome encounter outside Mango’s Tropical Cafe in January 2020 left Officer Ricardo Castillo with severe gashes as well as bullet wounds when he was accidentally shot by officers trying to drag him away from danger.
Miami-Dade prosecutors said Officers Kevin Perez and Yamil Acevedo “reasonably used deadly force” to protect Castillo from Ryan O’Neill Simms after he had responded to a report about a man waving a large knife and threatening people on Ocean Drive. As Castillo tried to handcuff Simms, he slashed the officer’s arm deeply enough to sever an artery and a nerve.
Castillo, who recovered after a lengthy hospital stay, was also accidentally struck in the knee by a bullet fired by Acevedo, who managed to haul him to safety as Simms was “moving his right arm with the meat cleaver in what he feared was another possible attack,” state attorney investigators said.
Castillo was also shot in the left elbow, according to the close-out memo. But it’s not clear if it was from the same bullet that hit his knee. Simms, who was killed, was 49. Castillo has since returned to light duty.
The incident occurred on the sidewalk near Ocean Drive and 10th Street a few minutes after security at Mango’s Tropical Cafe notified police that a man carrying a suitcase out front of the popular nightclub had produced a large knife and was swinging it around and frightening customers. Acevedo and Perez, along with a Mango’s security guard, walked north following Simms as Castillo stopped his patrol car and joined them, the report found.
Another officer then deployed his Taser at Simms, who was sitting on a planter with the meat cleaver, police said. Simms fell to the ground. As Castillo ran up to try to handcuff him, Simms slashed the officer’s left arm. Castillo, in his statement to prosecutors, said he remembers hearing gunshots and being dragged away. He also said he recalls unholstering his weapon after being cut, but didn’t fire.
Prosecutors reviewed sworn statements, video and police body worn cameras, in which, they said, officers can be seen and heard yelling at Simms to put the knife down. They also reviewed findings from an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. An autopsy report showed Simms with 36 bullet wounds to his arms, legs and stomach. Police said 29 bullet casings were recovered, all from Acevedo and Perez’s weapons.
During the gunfire a bullet also struck the handle of the meat cleaver, separating it from its sharp edge.
“The officers repeatedly ordered Simms to put his hands up. Simms responded by raising the meat cleaver over his head. A tactical life-saving attempt was made to subdue Simms without the use of deadly force,” investigators surmised.