Ronald Saint-Vil arrived at the SLS Hotel in South Beach in November 2017 to help raise money for victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. But he says he wound up a victim of police brutality instead. In a new lawsuit, Saint-Vil says Miami Beach cops shouted the N-word at him and stunned him with a Taser until he threw up — all because he was recording them on his cell phone.
Saint-Vil, now age 43, says he was hired to assist the event's main act, DJ Irie. Saint-Vil and his wife showed up to the party November 11. After DJ'ing the event from 8:30 to 10 p.m., Saint-Vil left with his wife after helping Irie set up his gear for a later set. But Saint-Vil says his wife forgot her purse inside the DJ booth, so he drove to the side of the hotel, let her out, and waited for her to return.
While waiting, he says, he saw two Miami Beach police officers — Curtis Crews and Augustin Rodriguez — placing someone into a transport van. So Saint-Vil pulled out his phone and began recording. It apparently angered the cops — one asked if he "could help" Saint-Vil, and Saint-Vil said he was fine. He then called his wife, but during that call, he says, one of the cops asked him what he was doing and then said, "You're coming with me."
Confused, Saint-Vil asked the cops why. In response, he says, Rodriguez whipped out his Taser and fired the prongs into Saint-Vil. When the shock subsided, Saint-Vil feared for his life, so he ripped out the prongs and ran toward the beach.
At this point, he says, a third cop, Alfredo Garcia, appeared as backup. Garcia caught up to him and used a Taser on Saint-Vil again; this time, Saint-Vil says, he collapsed and began throwing up. As he lay writhing on the ground, the other cops arrived. He says Rodriguez began shouting insults as he handcuffed Saint-Vil without reading him his Miranda rights.
"Who's got the biggest dick now, nigger?" Saint-Vil claims Rodriguez shouted. "You thought you were fast, nigger. Now we got you."
Saint-Vil says he then asked Rodriguez why he was being arrested and claims Rodriguez said, "Shut the fuck up, nigger."
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Saint-Vil says the cops took him to a local hospital to treat his Taser wounds. Police claimed he'd been intoxicated that night, but Saint-Vil says he wasn't drunk, and a nurse even remarked that he didn't seem like he'd had too much alcohol.
A spokesman for the Miami Beach Police Department declined to comment on the suit, and Saint-Vil's lawyers did not respond to a phone call yesterday. But in a federal lawsuit filed November 8, Saint-Vil says he was wrongfully charged with battery, resisting arrest, disorderly intoxication, and interfering with a prisoner. Prosecutors later dropped all of the charges.
Many Miami-area cops have taken issue with being recorded. In September, a man named Emmanuel David Williams published a video on Instagram showing three City of Miami officers violently arresting him after he'd seemingly done nothing other than use his phone to record them. Furthermore, the Miami Beach Police Department has something of a dark history with Taser abuse after its officers fatally stunned a 18-year-old graffiti artist Israel "Reefa" Hernandez in 2014. In his suit, Saint-Vil alleges his treatment shows local cops still have not learned from those incidents.
"As a direct result of Officer Rodriguez and Officer Garcia's actions, and Officer Crews' inactions, an otherwise pleasant evening for Mr. Saint-Vil working at a charity event with his wife turned into an evening of unwarranted physical and emotional pain," the suit states, "and a sobering insight into the traces of excessive force and racism that still plague police departments today."