Baptist Minister, Sucker-Punched and Arrested by Miami Police Officer, Calls for Cop Cameras

Anthony Walker skidded his car to a stop in front of the police cordon. His hands trembled on the wheel. Tears streamed down his cheeks and welled in his eyes, turning the crime scene before him into a blur of color and light.

Squad car strobes bathed the corner of NW 22nd Street and Third Avenue in red and blue. Behind yellow police tape, dozens of green plastic cones marked the location of bullet casings. At the center of it all: a bright-saffron-colored tarp stained with blood. Walker, a 28-year-old Baptist minister with sleepy eyes and a soft voice, drew a deep breath, stepped out of the car, and approached police officers.

See also: Miami Police Will Test Body Cameras on 50 Officers

"That's my baby brother, Brandon," he said, pointing to the body beneath the tarp. Before Walker could learn what happened, however, the rest of his family arrived. His mother collapsed onto his shoulder while her middle child, 27-year-old Antwan, brooded in the car.

Suddenly, Antwan burst out of the vehicle, dipped under the cordon, and raced toward the body. As he tried to lift the tarp off his brother, cops swarmed. Cones and bullet shells skittered across the sidewalk.

Anthony ducked under the tape to restrain Antwan, only to feel an arm tighten around his own neck. Miami Police Det. Fernando Bosch had Anthony in a headlock. Bosch dragged him away from the body and his brothers. But instead of releasing the minister, the detective began throwing uppercuts to his face. Anthony pulled away and put his hands to his bloodied nose. As another cop grabbed the pastor's hands, Bosch sucker-punched him in the face.

The April 9, 2013 incident in Overtown wasn't the first time Miami Police officers have been accused of using excessive force. But this beating was caught by a TV news camera on a helicopter hovering overhead.

Video footage of the violent arrest quickly went viral. The evidence forced Miami Police to discipline Bosch and prompted prosecutors to drop felony charges against the two surviving brothers. Last month, Anthony Walker sued Bosch and the City of Miami for "using unnecessary and unreasonable force." Miami taxpayers could be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The complaint could ultimately have an even bigger impact, however. Since the August 9 police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, communities around the country have clamored for cops to wear body cameras. Miami Beach and Miami-Dade County have both recently moved to require the technology. But the Miami Police Department, perhaps the state's most troubled force, has moved far more slowly.

"This case speaks to the importance of having cameras," says Anthony Walker's attorney, Ray Taseff. "Many times these things happen, and but for the video, claims [of police abuse] wouldn't be brought or would be easily dismissed."

It was the cruelest of ironies that took Anthony back to Overtown. He and his two brothers had been born in the neighborhood in the 1980s, when the scars of the McDuffie riots -- broken windows and burned-out storefronts -- were everywhere. So was crack cocaine.

Anthony, the oldest, attended Booker T. Washington High School. He earned the nickname "Bishop" after starring as a minister in a school play. Soon he began to act the part offstage, volunteering at nursing homes and consoling families of friends killed in the neighborhood.

Eventually, his mother had heard enough gunshots. "My mom saw fit and was blessed enough to get us out of there," Walker says. "I never thought that we would be subjected to that violence in the very same area we moved from."

The Walkers relocated to North Miami-Dade. Anthony finished school and began teaching teenagers at the New Jerusalem Primitive Baptist Church in Liberty City. Brandon, his youngest brother, also stayed out of trouble. He had a broad smile, a contagious laugh, and a clean record. Antwan, however, had trouble following their big brother's example. He was busted twice for selling cocaine and served a year in prison.

So it was a surprise when on April 9 of last year, Anthony picked up the phone to hear something had happened to Brandon. The older brother, wearing a tank top and turquoise swim shorts on his way to Haul-over Beach, pulled a U-turn, sped toward Overtown, and pulled up to the crime scene.

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.

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