MIAMI, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- A soldier at a shooting range in South Florida found that police officers had just used for target practice the mugshots of several black men -- including the soldier's brother.
Last month, Sgt. Valerie Deant, a clarinet player with the Florida Army National Guard's 13th Army Band, entered a shooting range in Medley, Fla., with some friends just as police officers were leaving. Deant and her friends found targets that the officers, who were North Miami Beach Police snipers, used for practice -- the mugshots of six black men, including Deant's brother, Woody Deant.
Woody Deant had been arrested 15 years earlier for his involvement in a drag race that killed two people, NBC 6 reports. Valerie Deant was upset when she saw her brother's image, and she reportedly called him. Woody Deant, who was 18 years old at the time of his arrest, told NBC 6 he was "speechless" after seeing his image with a bullet hole through his eye and forehead.
Woody Deant said on Facebook that he had "fallen victim to criminal profiling by the North Miami Beach Police [Department]." In another post he exclaimed, "We are targets!" Spending four years in prison after being arrested in 2000, Woody Deant now describes himself as a "husband" and "career man" who works "nine-to-five."
The Medley Firearms Training Center said it leases its facility to law enforcement for training but that officers bring their own targets.
North Miami Beach Police Chief J. Scott Dennis said his officers should have used better judgement but denied racial profiling had occurred. He said using real photo targets helped in facial recognition training and that none of the officers would face disciplinary action.
Maj. Kathy Katerman of the North Miami Beach Police Department told the Miami Herald, "We have other targets, too. We don't just shoot at black males."
Dennis noted that the department was "very concerned" that the targets would be of actual citizens on Miami streets and that he could see how shooting the photos of six black men could be taken out of context.
In a statement Friday Dennis said the sniper training program would be suspended pending an investigation and a review of the training process, and that the department would order "commercially produced training images."