On the street where a Miami policeman shot a black motorcyclist, people danced and drivers honked their horns after a jury convicted the officer on manslaughter charges.
Police officers with riot gear were on alert in Miami's Overtown section for fear that Thursday's outcome in the trial of Officer William Lozano would spark another round of racial unrest. Instead, the televised verdict turned a planned protest into a spontaneous celebration.Lozano showed no emotion when he heard the guilty verdict on two manslaughter counts in the Jan. 16 deaths of two black men - motorcyclist Clement Lloyd, 23, and passenger Allan Blanchard, 24.
He faces a maximum sentence of 45 years. Sentencing was set for mid-January, and his attorneys plan an appeal.
Lozano, who has been suspended with pay, may soon lose his job. Police chief Perry Anderson prepared paperwork for Lozano's dismissal after the verdict was announced and sent it to department lawyers for review, the Miami Herald reported Friday.
"More than likely they're going to move for his termination," police spokesman George Law said Friday. But he said before Lozano could be dismissed, an investigation must be ordered.
In the inner-city Overtown neighborhood, amid the dancing of about 100 blacks, Evert Wright said, "A black man finally got justice. It took a long, long time, but we finally got justice."
"For 10 years . . . we've been waiting for at least a token of commitment from the justice system," said Billy Hardemon, leader of People United for Justice.
He stood in front of two symbolic silver coffins and stacks of signs accusing police and city leaders of racism. Blacks had planned a march on the courthouse if Lozano was acquitted.
"This conviction sends a clear message to policemen that the policeman is not above the law," Hardemon said.
But many Hispanics said the Colombian-born Lozano, 31, was a scapegoat used to ward off a riot. Hundreds of callers jammed phone lines at Spanish-language radio stations to express anger.