Miami-Dade Police say cop who shot teen is a ‘victim,’ invoke Marsy’s Law and won’t name him

·8 min read

For nearly two weeks, the Miami-Dade Police Department refused to release the name of a police officer who fired a single shot that left a teenager — reportedly armed with a pistol — paralyzed after a chaotic car and foot chase.

On Thursday, the department finally gave a reason, becoming the latest to invoke Marsy’s Law to justify shielding the name of an officer involved in a shooting or other incident. Police departments across the state have increasingly cited the controversial state statute — which was originally pitched to Florida voters as a measure intended to shield the identify of crime victims.

Critics argue it is a misuse of the measure that prevents the public from reviewing police actions. But police department and unions have defended labeling law officers as victims or potential victims of retaliatory crimes — an expansion of the law backed by a state appellate court. The Florida Supreme Court is expected to rule on that decision later this year..

“When the officer gives a statement, we believe he will become a victim, which would then afford him the protections of Marsy’s Law, which not only protects police officers, but also protects the public,” said Steadman Stahl, president of Miami-Dade’s Police Benevolent Association, on Wednesday, foreshadowing the department’s decision.

Despite the department’s refusal to release the officer’s name, several law enforcement sources have confirmed to the Herald that the he is Luke Marckioli, an experienced and decorated veteran sergeant who was on patrol as a member of the department’s Homicide Violence Task Force the night that 15-year-old Vito Corleone-Venisee was shot.

An arrest report from the Jan. 16 shooting obtained by The Herald describes the teen carrying a handgun while fleeing but did not indicate if he pointed the weapon at officers.

An attorney for his family last week called the shooting unjustified and said the teen was struck from behind in the neck while running away and that he did not pose a threat. On Thursday, Troy Walker, special agent in charge with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the agency investigating the shooting, said there is nothing to indicate that Corelone-Venisee was shot in the back.

As of Thursday, Miami-Dade Police had not fulfilled a request for the officer’s personnel jacket and Internal Affairs files. Colleagues of Marckioli who did not want to be identified describe him as “a great cop” with “character and integrity.” His LinkedIn profile says he’s also a deputy U.S. Marshall at Miami-Dade Police and has been a sergeant for almost 24 years.

So far, Corleone-Venisee, who is recovering at Jackson Memorial Hospital from a neck wound that left him partially paralyzed, has been charged with possession of a firearm by a minor and resisting an officer without violence. He’s also facing charges for failing to appear at two court appearances late last year from 2020 arrests by different law enforcement agencies for attempted burglary and robbery.

Union president Stahl and PBA Attorney Andrew Axelrad said Wednesday that they believe more charges will soon be filed against the teen. A source familiar with the incident said the additional charge is likely to be aggravated assault. Pointing a weapon at police would fall under that category.

“The officer was the victim of a crime that we believe is going to be charged,” Axelrad said. “Schedules haven’t allowed that yet.”

Info released on teen, not officer

Police initially released little information on the circumstances surrounding the early morning shootin. But they quickly circulated photos of Corleone-Venisee, the Glock 18 they reported he was carrying and high-powered rifle found in the crashed car — all information that family attorney Jarlens Princilis contended last week was intended to paint the teen in a bad light.g

Police and law enforcement sources have since filled in some of the blanks.

Marckioli was on patrol as part of a beefed up police presence in the area when a report of a stolen Dodge Charger crackled over the radio. Tactical force officers not in uniform spotted the car next to a 2021 Dodge Challenger in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant in Brownsville. When the cars left the parking lot, police followed.

Not long after, police said, they ordered the two cars to stop. Both took off. The stolen Charger got away, but the Challenger came to a stop a few blocks away after going through a chain-link fence and hitting a tree at a park.

Two people got out and ran and got away. The third, Corleone-Venisee, was in the backseat and exited the two-door car through the driver’s side, before running, his attorney said. Marckioli gave chase and claims he fired his weapon after seeing a gun in the teen’s hand. Police said they recovered a black Glock handgun at the scene and that a semi-automatic rifle was in the backseat of the Challenger.

The teen’s attorney said his client had some hope to recover movement but said the family intends to file a lawsuit over what it believes was an unjustified shooting and arrest.

“From a legal standpoint, I question if it was even a reasonable traffic stop,” Princilis told the Herald last week. “And an officer can only use deadly force when he’s in fear of bodily injury or death. I don’t see that present when a teenager who is only 100 pounds is trying to run away from an officer. We don’t think the shooting is justified.”

The department has already argued otherwise, with a spokesman saying the police action may have saved lives. Florida law typically gives police officers broad latitude to open fire when they feel their lives or the lives of others might be at risk.

“Tonight could have very easily been a tragic night for the law enforcement family,” Miami-Dade Police spokesman Alvaro Zabaleta said that night. “These are individuals that clearly are up to no good.”

Controversial shield law

Marsy’s Law — established by statewide voter referendum in 2018 — has been controversial from the get-go. The law, part of a crime victims rights amendment passed by the Florida Legislature, was intended to protect victims of a crime from harassment by keeping confidential or privileged information, even victim’s names, from being publicized.

But it wasn’t long before police agencies began claiming officers in some police shootings also were protected from being identified publicly — essentially arguing that those officers also could become victims of retaliation. Most recently, Boynton Beach Police cited the statute in refusing to release the name of an officer who chased a 13-year-old who crashed his dirt bike and died.

Major media outlets and the First Amendment Foundation have taken the issue to court. The legal fight revolves around the May 27, 2020, shooting death of Natosha Tony McDade, a 38-year-old transgender person shot and killed by a Tallahassee police officer. McDade was killed during an altercation with police after he allegedly stabbed and killed his neighbor’s son.

The police department refused to release the officer’s name, citing Marsy’s Law. In April 2021, the First District Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling in deciding the officer’s name could be protected under the state statute. The state Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in December.

Miami-Dade police in a Thursday statement refused to name the officer saying “the victim has invoked their right to certain information protections under the Marsy’s Law. ...”

Stahl, the union president, said his officers are no different than the public and have every right to the same protections.

“The intent was to protect the victims and the courts have ruled that we’re no less victims,” the union president said.

Asked about the the Miami Herald’s decision to release the name of the officer involved in the shooting, Stahl responded with a pair of questions.

“Are you treating the officer differently than you would the victim of another crime? And does it expose him or family members to harassment?” he wondered.

Police also have sometimes expanded the law to include hiding the name of some people who have been killed, though that seems random. In 2019, not long after its inception, Tampa police cited the statute in shielding the name of two people found dead in a car near Busch Gardens. More recently, in June 2021, Miami-Dade Police refused to release the name of a 58-year-old man who was struck by a car and killed while riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle at an intersection in Southwest Miami-Dade.

Advocates of open records laws say there’s no point in keeping the names of crime victims secret because the dead can’t be harassed. And the law already provides for the protection of family members.

“The name alone does not provide enough information to locate and harass a victim’s family,” said Virginia Hamrick, a staff attorney for the First Amendment Foundation. “It doesn’t provide enough information to locate and harm anyone. It’s a misapplication of the statute.”

Tangela Sears, an anti-violence activist who lost a son to gunfire in 2015 and who went to Tallahassee to lobby for the passage of Marsy’s Law almost four years ago, called shielding the name of police under Marsy’s Law “a misuse of the statute.” Sears said she recently spent weeks with the mother of a murdered child trying to get an officer’s name.

“Ya, I’m more than a little frustrated by that,” she said. “We want to be able to get their information. That’s not a threat to the community. I’ve got a big problem with that.”

This story was updated with new information after initial publication early Thursday morning.

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