Reynaldo Munoz: Shot Dead on a Stolen WaveRunner

"They are stealing my, my boat in the back," Yasmin Davis stuttered into the phone. Seconds earlier, the pretty Peruvian architect had been eating lunch in her $2 million Miami Shores mansion. As she tucked a slice of sushi into her mouth, she glanced out the huge glass windows and spotted a young man wrestling the family's WaveRunner into the bay. Davis had been robbed before. This time she was ready. She ripped the phone from the wall, dialed 911, and burst outside — but not before ordering her 14-year-old son Jack to grab the family's shotgun.

As Davis angrily marched toward the water, Reynaldo Muñoz wrenched the 800-pound machine from its mooring. The 20-year-old stood only five-foot-six but was strong enough to topple the watercraft into the bay, where his girlfriend waited on their own WaveRunner.

"I have a gun!" Davis screamed as she approached Muñoz.

"Tell me exactly what's going on," the female 911 dispatcher pleaded with Davis, who was still clutching the cordless phone. But it was too late. Jack had already found the shotgun fastened beneath his mother's bed. Now he came running outside.

"Let it go!" Davis yelled at Muñoz as he sat on the bobbing watercraft, trying to jump-start the engine. "Let it go, or I'm going to shoot you! Let it go! Let it go!"

Just then, Jack arrived with the gun. "Muévete, muévete," Davis told her son, urging him toward a grassy patch of lawn overlooking the water. "You see him?" she said. "Shoot!"

Jack raised the shotgun to his face. Sunlight glinted off its metal muzzle. The sea hissed softly. Then the child prodigy with red ringlets squeezed the trigger, and the lazy Saturday afternoon shattered like glass.

Muñoz fell face down into the bay, blood billowing from his head into the murky water. Jack staggered sickly back toward the house, the shotgun still in his hand. "Oh my God," Davis said upon seeing what her son had done, her words captured on the 911 recording.

It's been two years since the single blast rang out across Biscayne Bay, but memories of the bizarre incident still circle as if caught in the sea's inscrutable eddies. The May 21, 2011 shooting was by no means the most mysterious in Miami's long ledger of botched burglaries. Nor was it the first time one kid had killed another. But a combination of lies, incompetence, and insane legislation have ensured that the slaying remains one of the city's most controversial.

Despite the buckshot embedded in the back of Muñoz's head, it was the Davises who emerged as victims. Yasmin Davis, her lawyer husband, and their high-powered attorney all claimed the family had been protecting itself against a potentially deadly home invasion. They cited Stand Your Ground, the Florida self-defense statute that would become infamous nine months later when George Zimmerman gunned down Trayvon Martin.

The evidence, however, suggested a much darker motive: that Reynaldo Muñoz was killed to prevent him from stealing the WaveRunner and that the Davises lied to cover up their own crime.

But bad laws and bad law enforcement conspired against the case. First, a Miami-Dade detective with a terrible track record botched her investigation. Then prosecutors, handcuffed by Stand Your Ground and harangued by the wealthy family's lawyers, decided not to charge Yasmin Davis or her son with a crime.

Reynaldo Muñoz Sr. admits his son made a serious mistake by committing the theft. But was the young man's life really worth a $2,000 WaveRunner?

"My son died over some rich kid's toy," he says. "They say this is a country of laws, but what good are they when some people can buy the law and others can't?"

The two young men would have never met if not for the bullet that brought them together. They came from opposite worlds: one wealthy and well-connected, the other working-class and cursed by misfortune. But when those two sides of Miami finally intersected that Saturday afternoon, they ignited.

Reynaldo Muñoz was born July 23, 1990, in the sweltering Havana barrio of Luyanó. It was a time of crisis in Cuba: The Berlin Wall had fallen eight months earlier, and the Soviet Union was slowly disintegrating. Food and gasoline suddenly became scarce. Zoo animals began disappearing, as did stray cats and dogs.

The only reason Reynaldo's family survived the Special Period was its car: a beat-up '57 Ford, but a precious commodity in a city so poor. Reynaldo Sr. drove the aging automobile around Havana's crumbling streets as a chauffeur, while his wife, Idalmis, nursed their infant.

The three of them lived with her parents in an apartment next to Reynaldo Sr.'s carpentry workshop. Despite his father's hammering and sawing, however, Reynaldo Jr. seemed to sleep soundly. At first, the young parents thought it was a blessing to have a child so sweet. But after six months, they began to worry.

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Michael E. Miller