A Miami-Dade police officer was legally justified in fatally shooting a troubled woman who shot at cops while being evicted from a luxury Brickell apartment, prosecutors say.
No charges will be filed in the April 6, 2021, killing of Stephanie Voikin, a shooting that was captured on newly released police body-camera video. The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, in a recently released memo on the case, ruled that Officer Kelmi Ramos was justified in using deadly force after Voikin, who barricaded herself behind two upturned mattresses, fired a shot at another officer, who was not injured.
“The bullet struck and penetrated the ballistic shield carried by one of the officers,” the memo said.
The 10-page memo chronicles the final hours of Voikin, 40, who had a history of squatting in homes and had a long record of arrests, substance abuse and mental-health woes. Her problems had been well-documented over the years, and included a series of restraining orders filed by former lovers or acquaintances who accused her of unhinged behavior, stalking and long overstaying her welcome.
One of those people was Pegi Smith, a former high school classmate who allowed Voikin to stay at her Sanford town home in 2019. She said Voikin got her falsely arrested for simple battery and involuntarily committed for a psychiatric evaluation. Ultimately, Smith convinced a Seminole County court to issue a permanent restraining order against Voikin.
“Stephanie was a menace to society. All the warning signs were there, for 20 years, and nobody gave a damn,” Smith said. “I had my kid taken away and she left a permanent mark on my life and all I was trying to do was help this girl.”
Smith added: “Thank God, she didn’t kill one of those cops.”
Last year, her mother, Cindy Voikin Scarpone, told the Miami Herald in an email that her daughter’s history was “no different than anyone else’s unsuccessfully battling bipolar disorder and being lost in the quagmire of the ‘system.’ ”
Cindy Voikin Scarpone also questioned if police had done enough to draw her daughter out peacefully — she noted that police never contacted her to try and convince the woman to surrender. “Police were well aware that Stephanie was mentally ill, potentially violent, armed, and desperate with no place to go,” she wrote.
Voikin’s possession of a firearm was no secret — on Instagram, before the shooting, Voikin had posted at least two selfies with the pistol, seemingly taunting officers. “Got the police bustin’ at ... but they can’t do nothing,” she wrote.
Investigators later learned she’d managed to steal the Glock pistol from a man she met on a dating website in September 2020. Voikin had claimed she was an officer with U.S. Customs, rummaged through his bedroom drawer and took the gun, although she denied it, he later told police. He reported the gun stolen to Miami police, although it’s unclear what steps, if any, the department took to recover the weapon.
Her final stay was inside apartment 2204 at the Brickell 1st Luxe City Rentals, where she’d attended a party and never left. The tenant wound up leaving, but not Voikin, who stayed for months, even as the building tried to evict her. According to the prosecutor’s final report, Miami-Dade police’s eviction enforcement unit knew Voikin “had a history of making statements and leaving notes on the apartment door threatening to shoot anyone who attempted to remove her.”
‘Back away from the door’
In an effort to get her out safely on the morning of April 6, 2021, Miami-Dade police pulled the fire alarm, with plainclothes detectives watching to see if she left the unit. She did not.
Finally, the “Enforcement Writ Section” knocked on the door, ordering her to leave because of the eviction order signed by a judge. According to police body-cam footage, she refused, cursing at officers, even a female officer who was recorded “attempting to establish a rapport and calm Voikin,” the memo said.
“You know what? I was born a f---ing patriot. I’m going out a f---ing patriot. Officer back away from the doorway,” she yelled, according to the body-cam.
Voikin also yelled out that she was live-streaming the confrontation. Investigators later learned she’d positioned her phone to record the incident on the WhatsApp messaging app. She was live-streaming with a man overseas she’d met online.
He was a construction worker in London, and was heard at a job site “yelling for someone to drop the gun and telling officers not to shoot,” the memo said. He was later interviewed by London police officers, who sent a copy of the statement to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which investigated the Brickell shooting.
After more back and forth, a Miami-Dade police tactical unit arrived, busted down the door just after noon and yelled for Voikin to surrender. Officer Eric Novo and Kelmi Ramos, both carrying tactical shields, entered first. According to the memo, they saw Voikin hiding behind two mattresses propped up inside the kitchen, and yelled for her to surrender.
That’s when Voikin fired her gun. According to body-cam footage obtained by the Herald, officers yelled out. “She’s behind the mattress. I think she shot the shield. Anybody hurt?”
“Let me see your hands! I think she shot the shield,” another police officer yells out.
“Kelmi you got her,” an officer asked before two police gunshots rang out from Ramos. Voikin — mortally wounded — yelled out in pain.
Officers moved her to the hallway, where Miami Fire-Rescue paramedics found officers trying CPR on Voikin. She was rushed to Jackson Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
“Based on the totality of the evidence, including review of the body cam video footage recorded during the event,” prosecutors Brena Mezick and Andrew Hague wrote, “there is evidence sufficient to conclude that Officer Kelmi Ramos fired his Glock in defense of himself and his fellow officers.”