Relatives, friends criticize death of man in Sunrise police raid
BY JANETTE NEUWAHL
Wearing black armbands with painted gold hearts, family and friends grieving the death of a Sunrise man shot and killed in a police drug raid staged a peaceful protest at a City Commission meeting Tuesday night.
A dozen mourners stood in memory of Anthony Andrew Diotaiuto as a friend, William DeLarm, told officials why he thinks the death of the 23-year-old bartender was wrong.
''No where in the Constitution does it say that you can be killed by those sworn to protect and shield the public,'' said DeLarm.
About 6:15 a.m. on Friday, a police SWAT team raided the south Sunrise home where Diotaiuto lived with his mother, Marlene Whittier. Diotaiuto was alone at home.
Lt. Robert Voss, a spokesman for Sunrise police, said officers entered the home with a search warrant to look for evidence that Diotaiuto dealt drugs. The officers were armed because they knew Diotaiuto had a firearms license, Voss said.
When they found Diotaiuto with a pistol, Officers Sean Visners and Andre Bruma fired, Voss said.
Police screamed such warnings as ''Freeze!'' and ''Police!'' when they walked into the home, Voss added. But Diotaiuto ran into his bedroom, Voss said.
''My heart goes out to the family and friends [of Diotaiuto] and all of the members of the police department feel the same way,'' said Voss, reserving comment on the family's accusations until a formal report is released. ``It's a tragedy and our officers are going through a tough time.''
The death of Diotaiuto was the first time the 14-year-old SWAT team has shot a suspect, Voss added.
Voss said he could not immediately say how many times police shot Diotaiuto, but Brian Kickbush, the boyfriend of Diotaiuto's mother, said there were about 10 gunshot wounds.
Diotaiuto died soon after the shooting. Police said they found 2 ounces of marijuana at the home, along with some plastic bags and some weight scales
Voss said Sunrise detectives had been observing people visiting his home and an undercover investigator or informant had bought drugs from him, Voss said.
David Arker, a manager who worked with Diotaiuto at the Carolina Ale House in Weston, said his employee and friend only smoked marijuana ''casually'' and did not sell drugs. He said Diotaiuto was a hard worker.
Diotaiuto's girlfriend, Leslie Kellner, 21, said he also worked as a DJ and sold his prized sports car to pay for the home he shared with his mom. ''If he was a drug dealer, he could have bought his mom a new car, but he couldn't even afford to fix it,'' said Kellner, 21.
Diotaiuto's loved ones said they did not think police properly identified themselves.
''If Anthony knew who was at his door, he would have cooperated,'' Kellner said.
Sunrise Mayor Steven B. Feren told the group he was sorry for their loss, but that the city was waiting for an investigation before more answers would be available.
A funeral Mass for Diotaiuto will be 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. David's Catholic Church, 3900 S. University Dr., Davie.