Unarmed Tourist Shot And Killed By Miami Beach Police

Last weekend's shooting death of a tourist visiting Miami Beach has drawn national attention from Arab-American groups and others who are planning a vigil Friday night in front of the Miami Beach police headquarters.

The South Florida Palestine Solidarity Network is organizing the vigil with other groups, including Jewish Voice for Peace-South Florida, to denounce Miami Beach police over the death of Husien Shehada, a 29-year-old Palestinian-American from Virginia.

"We want assurances from Miami Beach police that any Arab Americans should not fear police brutality on the streets of Miami Beach," said Muhammed Malik, coordinator of the vigil and law student at St. Thomas University.

The vigil comes the same week that a Washington-based group -- the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee -- also decried the shooting death and demanded "a complete and thorough investigation . . . as quickly as possible."

"Police brutality, regardless of the victim's race or origin, will not be tolerated. ADC will be working with the victim's family, legal counsel and the proper state and federal authorities to ensure that justice is served," ADC National Executive Director Kareem Shora said in a statement.

Shehada, a limousine chauffeur from Woodbridge, Va., was in Miami Beach nearing the end of a five-day vacation about 4 a.m. Sunday morning when he was stopped by a Miami Beach police officer.

Law enforcement sources told The Miami Herald that Shehada may have concealed an empty beer bottle under his shirt that appeared to some passers-by to be a gun, sparking several 911 calls about an armed man on the street.

When responding officers encountered Shehada outside a Washington Avenue nightclub early Sunday, he appeared to be reaching for the concealed object, prompting a patrolman to open fire, the sources said.

But John Contini, a lawyer for the Shehada family, vigorously denied Husien had a bottle. He also said that he has viewed surveillance video from the scene which shows Husien "attempting to put his hands up when he is executed."

Added Contini: "He was an unarmed Virginia businessman who was essentially executed by an overzealous police officer."

On Thursday, the police union voiced support for the officer.

"We are confident our officer will be vindicated once all the information comes out. We believe he was well within the guidelines [for use of force]," said Sgt. Alejandro Bello, president of Miami Beach's Fraternal Order of Police.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office is investigating the shooting.

The Miami Beach Police Department's internal affairs unit is also investigating what led to the shooting, according to Detective Juan Sanchez, a department spokesman. But the department has referred all questions to the state attorney's office.

Friday night's vigil is set to begin at 6 p.m. in front of the Miami Beach police headquarters, 1100 Washington Ave.