In October 2018, New Times obtained and published footage of Miami-Dade police Sgt. Manuel Regueiro whacking a handcuffed suspect, 18-year-old Bryan Crespo, in the face. After publication, state prosecutors charged Regueiro with misdemeanor battery and a second cop, Alexander Gonzalez, with a third-degree felony after Gonzalez allegedly tried to erase security footage of the incident from Crespo's home camera system.
Today a state jury acquitted Regueiro of the battery charge, according to reporters in the courtroom:
The case began March 15, 2018, when a team of armed-to-the-teeth cops for the Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) broke down Crespo's door and burst into his home. Police said someone had been stealing airbags from cars in the area, and officers claimed Crespo, who had a record of petty crimes, was the lead suspect. (Crespo had previously been arrested for allegedly possessing a stolen airbag.)
Crespo had a surveillance system set up inside his house, and footage showed MDPD cops busting into his home in a SWAT-style raid. Officers entered the house with guns drawn despite the fact that a child was inside.
The video showed Crespo gave himself up quietly and without much of a fight. After a few minutes, officers began escorting him out of the house. But as the cops walked him toward the door, video showed Regueiro walking up to Crespo, winding up, and hitting the handcuffed young man in the face. The footage showed Crespo's head snapping back when the cop's hand strikes him:
In 2018, Crespo's lawyer, Cam Cornish, said he was disturbed that no other cops seemed even remotely bothered that Regueiro hit a defenseless suspect.
"He did it because he could," Cornish said at the time. "He did it because he wanted to. And he did it because he knew that he wasn’t going to get caught. It just so happens that we have proof of what he did."
Prosecutors also alleged Gonzalez tried to cover up evidence of the slap — but failed in spectacular fashion. He allegedly removed the batteries from Crespo's home surveillance system in the hopes that a lack of power would erase the footage. The ploy didn't work. (Gonzalez is awaiting trial.)
At his trial, Regueiro reportedly claimed that Crespo was about to spit on him and that it would have been a sign of weakness to duck or just let himself get hit with phlegm. Regueiro testified he heard Crespo purse his lips and inhale as if he was about to hawk a loogie.
"You don't duck," Regueiro reportedly said from the stand. "Then you're a coward."