Hispanics Rally in Support of Convicted Officer
MIAMI (AP) _ Waving banners and chanting ″inocente,″ supporters of William Lozano rallied to his defense Saturday and raised funds to appeal the suspended Miami policeman’s manslaughter conviction.
Lozano, speaking mostly in Spanish to a crowd of more than 300 in Miami’s Little Havana section, said he and fellow officers appreciate the outcry from the Hispanic community after a jury Thursday convicted him in the deaths of two black men.
The incident provoked three days of inner-city rioting last January that left one man dead and more than $1 million in damage.
″We want a system of justice, not one of politics,″ the Colombian-born Lozano said. His supporters have claimed that the Dade County Circuit Court jury’s decision was influenced by fear of another riot.
Accompanied by his children and wife, who is also a Miami police officer, Lozano said the verdict would have a chilling effect on law enforcement.
″Police now wonder if they shoot someone in the line of duty, will they be the next ones to go to jail,″ he told the rally at WOCN-AM radio, which has joined other Spanish-language stations in raising money for an appeal.
Later, Lozano appeared with several hundred supporters at a rally in front of the Miami Police Department’s headquarters.
Lozano, 31, is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 24 on two counts of manslaughter for the deaths of motorcyclist Clement Lloyd and his passenger, Allan Blanchard, in Miami’s Overtown section. He faces up to 45 years. His attorneys say they will appeal.
During the seven-week trial, broadcast live on local television and radio, defense attorneys claimed Lozano shot in self-defense. Prosecutors alleged he could have avoided the motorcycle.
In Miami’s black neighborhoods, the verdict was celebrated as a hallmark of justice.
But along the main street of Little Havana, signs in English and Spanish read, ″Lozano is 100 percent innocent″ and ″Where would you be without police?″
″People are calling this justice, but that is impossible to believe,″ said Lozano’s mother, Zoila Lozano. ″Look at the people out here to say that a police officer may go to jail for doing his job.″
″Lozano is seen as a scapegoat in a system that is too worried about more violence from blacks,″ said George Gonzalez, who joined the rally outside the station. ″There is a mentality among the Latins that a cop can do no wrong if he is out fighting bad guys.″
Nearby, motorists honked horns in support and dropped cash and checks into wastebaskets and hats bearing pro-Lozano bumper stickers.
″This is people’s way of saying that justice has not been served,″ said Lozano’s sister-in-law, Berta.
Inside the station, a sign was posted with an address for a Lozano defense fund. A petition also was circulated calling for Dade Circuit Judge Joseph Farina to allow Lozano to remain free on bond until his appeal.
There were no immediate estimates of how much money was raised Saturday.
″Cops are asking themselves now, ’What is right?‴ said Manuel Perez, president of the Florida Hispanic Police Officers Association. ″This is not they way it should be.″
Police Chief Perry Anderson said earlier that the city’s legal department is reviewing Lozano’s termination order, which could be issued this week. State law requires dismissal of any officer convicted of a felony.