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Police deny damaging cell phone of witness to Florida shooting

By Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd, CNN
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Police shooting caught on tape
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Police say the witness phone still works and was not smashed
  • The department releases a photo of the phone that shows it is slightly damaged
  • "It is unknown when this damage occurred," police say
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Read more about this story from CNN affiliate WPLG.

(CNN) -- Miami Beach authorities are disputing an allegation by a witness to a fatal police shooting in Florida that his cell phone was "smashed" by officers because he filmed their actions.

The police department denied Narces Benoit's claim that his phone was crushed by an officer last week after he recorded a video of the fatal shooting.

Authorities supplied photos of the phone in question, saying they demonstrate the phone is only slightly damaged, "and it is unknown when this damage occurred."

In Benoit's video, gunfire breaks out, and officers are seen firing on a car. The fatal shooting of an erratic driver on Memorial Day has made headlines nationwide after Benoit's video and others became public.

In the video, officers are seen instructing Benoit to stop filming. One officer, whose words are unclear, points his gun directly into the camera before backing away.

Benoit and his girlfriend, Ericka Davis, asserted that officers smashed the phones of other witnesses as well, but a police department spokesman said Monday they received no other complaints of damaged property.

The statement said police took several phones from witnesses, but says that was done to obtain evidence.

"Any and all video of the incident is crucial to the investigation, and it is not unusual for police to secure any video that may have evidentiary value," the statement said.

CNN affiliate WPLG reported that police confiscated a camera form one of their photographers and later returned it.

The police statement also defended the handling of Benoit, saying he was detained because he "matched the description of one of the subjects just reported fleeing the scene and, further, because he ignored repeated commands as he quickly walked towards and entered his vehicle."

Benoit says he was following an officer's instructions to get back into his truck, only to be hauled out of it, thrown on the ground, and handcuffed shortly thereafter.

Miami Beach police say they are still investigating the fatal shooting of the driver Benoit captured on tape.

Officers stopped Raymond Herisse in his car at 4 a.m. on Memorial Day, but after an altercation, he sped off, police said.

A video posted on YouTube, which CNN cannot independently confirm, shows a commotion as a car moving erratically comes to a stop at an intersection.

Bystanders scatter as officers surround the car with guns drawn, and gunfire breaks out.

Herisse was killed, and four bystanders were injured by gunfire, according to police.

"We could have been killed," Davis said. "They were shooting so long, you could hear their guns clicking on empty, but they kept pulling the trigger," she said. "I think that's excessive."

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