A Florida woman discovered North Miami Beach Police had been using images of black men for target practice after recognizing her brother's mug shot at a shooting range.
Sgt. Valerie Deant, a musician with the Florida Army National Guard’s 13th Army Band, arrived at a shooting range with her fellow soldiers just after police snipers had been practicing on the same range last month. Deant was shocked to see her brother's photograph among the mug shots of black men apparently used as target practice by the police. Woody Deant was arrested in 2000 in connection with a deadly drag race when he was just 18 years old.
"I was like why is my brother being used for target practice?” Deant told NBC Miami on Friday. "There were like gunshots there."
"N obody expects to come across their family member as a target at a shooting range," Andell Brown, an attorney for the Deant family, told TIME. "She was concerned about why he was there, and what that meant for his safety."
Captain Jack Young, who oversees the shooting range, confirmed that the targets are selected by whoever is renting the range. Police chief J. Scott Dennis told NBC that the decision to use mugshots of black men was ill-considered, but that no rules had been broken. He said his department includes minority police officers, and said the use of actual photographs for target practice is very common. Requests for further comment from Dennis were not immediately returned.
"These young men are literally being used for target practice," Brown said. "And if those in the leadership don’t see anything wrong with that practice, then we have a very serious issue." Brown said that the family is weighing their legal options.
Woody Deant, who spent four years in prison after his arrest, told NBC he was disturbed at his sister's discovery. "Now I'm being used as a target?” he said. "I’m not even living that life according to how they portrayed me as. I’m a father. I’m a husband. I’m a career man. I work 9-to-5.”
"The picture actually has like bullet holes,” he said.