Police shooting raises questions and concerns
By Marie Carie
“We want to make sure that it is handled the right way.” These words spoken by North-west Pompano Beach citizen Vinsinta Thrower captures the sentiments of a community shocked by the recent police shooting of 51-year-old Deosaran Maharaj.
Mr. Maharaj, affectionately known as the “Coconut Man,” was shot and killed by a Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy on Sunday, March 16.
According to reports, an unidentified woman reported that a man with a machete threatened her life at the Marathon Gas Station on Hammondville Road and Northwest 31st Avenue. The woman approached the deputy inside the convenience store and accompanied him outside to make the identification.
At this point Maharaj drove off in his white truck and the deputy followed him. Eventually the deputy pulled him over and requested that Deosaran show his hands and get down on the ground. According to Dani Moschella, Broward Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer, Deosaran failed to follow the deputy’s instructions and proceeded to go looking through his truck.
“The deputy felt threatened at that point and was forced to shoot. He shot multiple times. At least one of those shots fatally injured the man, who had gotten back into the pick-up,” states Moschella.
It is not known at this time whether Deosaran was at-tempting to locate his machete or why he refused to follow the deputy’s orders. The shooting is currently under investigation by BSO and the officer responsible for the shooting, Paul Yes-beck is on administrative leave.
Maharaj is known as the Coconut Man throughout the community because he makes his living selling coconuts which he chops down using the machete that was found in his truck. According to Thrower, “He was an honest and good man when it came to what he did and he was very respected and known in the Collier City area as being a good man.”
Northwest Civic Association President, Walter Hunter, was familiar with Maharaj as well. When he received the call late Sunday night, he immediately reported to the scene where he discovered what had happened.
After talking to a few people and Sheriff Israel, he returned home where over the next few days he got calls from several concerned citizens about the events that took place.
Hunter’s response to frustrated community members is as follows: “It’s no sense in being in an uproar until we find out was it justified or not justified.”
Hunter goes on to say, “For some people the wheels seem not to be turning fast enough. But in a homicide you can’t expect the wheels to turn too fast if you want justice. Witnesses have to be interviewed. People have to be interviewed. The sheriff has to do his job and I believe he will”
In fact Hunter states emphatically, “I trust Sheriff Israel is going to do a proper investigation.”
And Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel plans to do just that. “We don’t go into an investigation looking to clear a deputy or find wrong doing on the part of the deputy. That does not come into play.”
Sheriff Israel further states that the background of the victim is irrelevant. “It’s not applicable. It’s not going to be looked into. All we are going to do is look into what happened that night.”
Israel went on to explain exactly what happens when a police shooting takes place. According to him, the Broward County Homicide Division in accordance with the Crime Forensic Team and Crime Scene Team investigates the incident and gathers the facts.
The facts are then presented to the grand jury by the State Attorney’s Office. The grand jury makes the decision on whether the use of force was justifiable or not justifiable. If the use of force is deemed not justifiable, then the officer can be charged and an internal affairs case is opened.
Israel goes on to say that during the internal affairs case, the BSO looks at policies, procedures and practices and decides if the deputy operated within the framework of their training. If not, it is dealt with depending on the severity or nature of the policy.
Obviously this entire process will take time and Sheriff Israel sympathizes with the community’s desire to have quick answers. However, he also sees the importance of exhibiting prudence.
“We want things done fast. But as important as it is to do something in a somewhat speedy manner, it’s so much more important to get it right and accurate and we cannot rush an investigation. That wouldn’t be fair to the deputy. That wouldn’t be fair to the Broward County citizens and that wouldn’t be fair to the family of the man who lost his life. So we gotta get it right,” says Israel.
Community leader Walter Hunter seconds this opinion. “We got to be careful. We got lynched back in the day without facts. Now here some of us are standing in the way and wanting somebody convicted without accountability. This we don’t need. We just need a thorough investigation before we start throwing stones at anybody.”
Under the leadership of Sheriff Israel and the support of community members, Northwest Pompano Beach citizens can be assured that a thorough investigation is exactly what they will get.
“He was an honest and good man when it came to what he did” -Thrower
“He was very respected and known in the Collier City area as being a good man.”
“The deputy shot him and the community’s been very upset about it.”
“A machete is not a danger to me or you if it is in your car.”
“The only way a machete can do you any harm is you actually have to have a machete coming at me.”
“The community has some concerns about what was said and what happened.”