May Was an Awful Month for Miami Police-Misconduct Videos

May Was an Awful Month for Miami Police-Misconduct Videos
Lisa Harrell via Facebook
Lisa Harrell via Facebook
Maybe the rainy weather had everyone in a funk. Maybe planetary cycles were weird all month. Perhaps local drug-enforcement police were designed to act like an occupying force in communities of color and should be defunded. Regardless of the reasons, Miami-area cops got filmed doing some awful stuff last month.

Perhaps if Donald Trump weren't busy distracting the media by acting like an unhinged child, one of the multiple questionable police incidents this month might have inspired some outrage in the national media. Instead, we're on, like, day 348 of Roseanne-gate.

Here's a primer on all the questionable law-enforcement tactics caught on tape in May 2018:

1. Miami PD Officer Charged With Assault for Taking a Flying Kick at a Handcuffed Man's Head:

Last Thursday, a clip went viral of Miami Police Officer Mario Figueroa taking a running start and kicking the head of a defenseless, handcuffed black man.

Now, in an unusually swift chain of events for local police-misconduct cases, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced this afternoon that her office had charged Figueroa with one count of misdemeanor assault.

"Officer Mario Figueroa can have no excuse for the alleged actions seen on the initial videotape," Rundle announced in an afternoon news release. "This community demands respect for all individuals taken into custody. Any evidence of abuse, which is also evidence of a crime, will assist us going forward."

This isn't the first time Rundle's office has been presented with video clips of Miami-area cops beating or attacking handcuffed or detained suspects, and in the past, she's often declined to file charges. But in this case, she has moved swiftly — perhaps because Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina quickly announced Friday that Figueroa had been suspended with pay and noted in an unusually stern statement that the video "depicted a clear violation of policy," placing added pressure on Rundle's office to take action. (It's worth noting MPD is still being monitored by the U.S. Department of Justice after a federal report found the department used excessive force against people of color.)

In a statement posted online just after 2 p.m. after the charges were announced, Miami PD said it also planned to fire Figueroa.

2. Miami-Dade PD Officers Shoot Man; Turns Out He Was Only Holding a Screwdriver

"They shot me for nothing, man!" a man yells moments after Miami-Dade Police opened fire on him in Opa-locka this past Wednesday. In a Facebook video filmed just after the 1:15 p.m. incident at the Glorieta Gardens Apartments, the man insists he did nothing to cause officers to shoot him.

MDPD hasn't explained why the cops opened fire yet either, leaving the man — who hasn't been named yet — in stable condition at Jackson Memorial Hospital. The police haven't claimed he was armed. Instead, the police say they found only a common household tool near him after the shooting: a screwdriver.

"Information received thus far indicates that a screwdriver was recovered as evidence from the scene of the encounter," reads a statement released by MDPD late Wednesday. MDPD says the officer who fired his gun was an eight-year veteran, but the department has not yet released his name.

"The officers approached, and after a brief encounter with the three individuals, subject #1 was shot by one of the officers," the statement reads. MDPD has confirmed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating what happened.

3. Miami Beach PD Officer Tells Bikers He "Hopes They All Fucking Crash and Die"

Riding dirt bikes and ATVs on the highway is not a great idea, especially if you're popping wheelies on busy Florida roads where drivers weave in and out of traffic and are regularly involved in accidents.

But it's also a bad look when a police officer loudly wishes death upon those bike riders. Yet that's exactly what happened over Memorial Day weekend. In a video clip New Times obtained, a Miami Beach Police officer following a group of dirt bike and ATV riders across the Julia Tuttle Causeway hops onto his intercom and tells them: "I hope you all fucking crash and die."

Someone else can be heard stating, "Come pinga, queclase de come pinga" (rough translation: "Cocksucker, what a cocksucker"), but it's unclear from the clip whether that was broadcast over the PA system.

In response, MBPD spokesperson Ernesto Rodriguez says that an "internal affairs investigation will be launched to investigate what may have been said."

4. Hallandale Beach Cops Suspended After Beating and Tasering Man Witnesses Said Was Mentally Ill

This morning, there's yet another incident: Hallandale Beach Police have suspended two cops after they were filmed brutally beating and tasering an unarmed man whom witnesses say is mentally ill.

A bystander recorded harrowing footage of the two officers repeatedly using their batons to whack the man while he screams in agony. After the cops get the man on the ground, he continues screaming, gets tasered, and even gets hit again with a baton. The bystander yells at the officers to stop, and they respond by shouting back at the witness.

According to WPLG, the victim is Daniel James Dunkelberger, who has a long list of criminal charges in Broward, including a few violent felonies. In the footage, a man can be heard admitting he called the cops because Dunkelberger stole something from him; the witness responds that he still shouldn't be getting his head busted open like a rotten egg. According to an arrest report WPLG obtained, Dunkelberger is accused of reaching into someone's open car window to try to steal some items.

Hallandale city officials agreed with the witness that the beating was disturbing. In a news conference at 6:30 p.m. yesterday, the city announced it has suspended the two officers — 11-year veteran Jamie Cerna and 35-year veteran Richard Allen — amid an investigation.
5. Florida City Cops Shoot Man to Death; Witnesses Say He Was Unarmed, but Cops Say Otherwise 

Per WPLG, which obtained bystander footage from the scene:

Juvon Simon's family said many questions remain unanswered after the young man was fatally shot Wednesday by a Florida City police detective.

"He wasn't a bad kid. He wasn't a bad kid," Simon's uncle, identified only as Ross, said.

More Florida City Shooting Headlines
Florida City detective fatally shoots man at apartment complex, authorities say
Simon's uncle said his nephew might not have been perfect, but that other young people looked up to him.

"And he was all about what was right. Even though they were hanging out and just being normal kids, it didn't call for that," Ross said.

According to detectives, two Florida City police officers were conducting a criminal investigation that lead them to an apartment complex in the 1400 block of Northwest Second Avenue where they made contact with Simon, 23, inside of one of the units.

Authorities said some sort of confrontation ensued and one of the detectives ended up shooting Simon, killing him.

But Simon's friends who were in the apartment remember it differently.

Breon Lester told Local 10 News that he was on the couch when Simon came running into the apartment yelling that the police were there.

Lester said he started to run away, but Simon was still struggling to close the door in front of the officers.

"As soon as I get, like, in the living room, I hear the shots. I turn around (and) I see him on the ground," Lester said.

Bullet holes in the door of the apartment show that two rounds traveled through the door from outside.

Bloody clothes were left inside of the home and now sit in a trash bag outside of the apartment.

Police said Simon was armed and that crime scene technicians found a weapon in the house, but his friends insist that isn't true.

"He didn't have no gun or no drugs. Matter of fact, he just woke up — just brushed his teeth," Lester said.

Miami-Dade police detectives are investigating the shooting.

Florida City police and Miami-Dade police have not released further details about the initial investigation or the shooting.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.