Jay Jones was on the phone with his girlfriend when her voice was suddenly drowned out by a mechanical roar. The 29-year-old glanced up to find a trio of angry-looking Miami Beach cops atop sputtering ATVs. “I gotta go,” Jones told his girlfriend. “I’ll call you right back.”
Not on that phone, he wouldn’t. Jones, a Brickell businessman who had never been in trouble in his life, was arrested for refusing to submit to what he says was an illegal police search. He spent a day in jail, only to be handed back his iPhone 5 — smashed to bits.
“It was brand-new,” he says. “They totally destroyed it because they didn’t like what I was saying.”
Jones isn’t the first person to make such a claim. Two years earlier, on Memorial Day weekend 2011, Narces Benoit accused MBPD officers of confiscating and smashing his cell phone after he filmed cops killing Raymond Herisse in a hail of gunfire on Collins Avenue. Several other onlookers’ phones were confiscated, and a local TV station’s camera was impounded.
Jones’ case provides perhaps the clearest evidence of cop retaliation. On April 19, 2013, Jones and two buddies had just left a bar on Ocean Drive and were hanging out at their car when cops arrived en masse. “Hands on the car!” the officers demanded. Believing that cops didn’t have probable cause and that the stop was racially motivated — Jones is white but his two friends were black — Jones refused.
“I said, ‘No, I’m not going to put my hands up. I didn’t do anything wrong,’?” Jones recalls. “I shouldn’t have done that.”
The three officers pounced on him. According to an arrest report, Jones “refused the lawful order given and lunged off the car shouting ‘I’m not doing that. Bring me to jail.’?”
Police accused Jones of resisting arrest without violence and drinking alcohol in public. Jones admits that there was a bottle of José Cuervo in the car but that it wasn’t his and he wasn’t drinking out of it. He says he was stripped of his property, including his phone (standard operating police procedure), and taken to an MBPD holding cell.
But when he continued complaining that he had done nothing wrong, Jones says, he was placed in a prisoner transport vehicle as punishment. “If you’re claustrophobic, it’s torture,” he says. “It’s like being buried alive.”
After nearly an hour in the sweltering hole, Jones was yanked out — he sent New Times photos of the cuts and bruises he says he suffered — and taken to Miami-Dade County Jail, a place he calls “Third World-like.”
When he was released the next day, Jones says, he was handed back his wallet but not his phone. He called his own number, and cops answered; they claimed they had found the phone the night before on the street just two blocks from the spot where he was arrested. But when Jones picked up his phone at the station, it looked as if it had been used for target practice.
Jones doesn’t buy the official explanation that cops found his phone that way after his arrest. He says it was new when the three ATV cops confiscated it. Plus it was locked, so how could cops have known it was his if they had found it in the street?
Jones' iPhone after police had returned it.
Courtesy of Jay Jones
“They must have stomped it 100 times and then left it there for me,” he says. “There is no doubt about it: They purposefully destroyed my property.”
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A judge withheld adjudication on the two charges. Over the past two years, Jones has managed to get the case — and even his arrest — officially expunged. But he contacted New Times in the hope that others with similar stories will come forward. “It’s basically my word against theirs,” he says. “That’s how they get away with it. But if everybody reports it, then that sticks to the wall.”
A police spokesperson said that MBPD hadn’t received a complaint regarding the arrest but that the department takes “all allegations of officer misconduct seriously and will thoroughly investigate it.”
Jones says he plans to file a complaint against the three officers now that his case has been expunged. “People should know about the stuff they are doing,” he says, “because it’s not right.”