On a Monday night in August 2018, Andre Lewis was walking through the Brickell Metrorail station when a Miami police officer ordered him to leave. The 51-year-old Lewis says he was on his way out when the cop, later identified as Officer Leonel Sanchez, handcuffed him and told him he was under arrest.
In a lawsuit filed in Miami-Dade Circuit Court in late October, Lewis, who is homeless, alleges Sanchez placed him in a headlock and began punching him. A second officer, Leslier Diaz, allegedly joined in.
The suit accuses the officers of using excessive force against Lewis, who spent six days in the hospital and underwent surgeries for a broken leg and eye socket.
"The actions of [Sanchez and Diaz] constituted an unwarranted assault and battery upon [Lewis] that was committed in bad faith or with malicious purpose or in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard of human rights, safety, or property," the lawsuit states.
Lewis' attorney, Martin Leach, is on vacation and could not be reached by New Times. The Miami Police Department (MPD) did not respond to an email regarding the case.
Following his hospitalization, Lewis was jailed for trespassing, disorderly intoxication, and resisting officers without violence — charges prosecutors later dropped. In October 2018, Lewis filed a formal complaint with MPD's internal affairs division, which closed the case after deeming it "Non Complaint." But Miami's Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP), an independent police oversight board, eventually opened its own investigation.
According to the CIP case file, two security officers had asked Lewis to leave the Metrorail station earlier that night. He left the station, boarded a free trolley, and fell asleep during the ride. When he awoke, he noticed the trolley had returned to its stop at the station. After Sanchez arrested him, Lewis complained the handcuffs were too tight, which allegedly led to the beating.
Lewis told investigators that before he was attacked, Sanchez motioned to his body cam and said, "I can turn it on or I can leave it off." When the CIP requested footage from the incident, the department responded that the officers weren't wearing the devices, according to the case file.
Lewis was hospitalized at Jackson Memorial Hospital for six days, during which he was guarded by police officers. Records show he was treated for a broken tibia and a broken right orbital bone.
The CIP found that Lewis' injuries were consistent with his account of what happened, and ultimately, the complaints committee voted to sustain the allegations of excessive force against Sanchez and Diaz. But CIP findings are mostly symbolic and do not result in disciplinary action.
The City of Miami has yet to respond to Lewis' complaint. So far, no court hearings have been scheduled.
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