Two cousins getting ready to head to a Miami Dolphins game in 2017 were parked in a driveway when a Miami-Dade cop approached them. Officer Carlos Angulo allegedly ripped the men out of the car and pointed a gun at the driver's head, ultimately sending him to the emergency room.
In a second case that year, Angulo reportedly pointed a gun at a high-school teacher and track coach who was simply driving a student to practice.
Now, the two men, both of whom are black, are suing Angulo and the Miami-Dade Police Department in federal court for what they claim is a pattern of racist violence.
"Two young black men. Strangers. Neither having ever been arrested before," the suit states. "These two strangers brought together by disgraceful acts of violence by the very same police officer, just a few months apart. Two young and vibrant lives changed forever, victims of racial profiling resulting from
Neither MDPD nor the plaintiffs' lawyer responded to messages this morning from New Times. (MDPD typically does not comment on active lawsuits.) But the two men — Robert Elie Menard and Steven Kennan Payne — are suing MDPD and Angulo for battery, false imprisonment, and civil rights violations after both say Angulo "brought their lives crashing down" after he violently ripped them from their cars. Menard says he now suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder because of the incident, and Payne says he lost his teaching job after the violent arrest.
In the first incident, Menard, a licensed
"They didn’t pay the police too much mind until the lead car pulled up just a few inches from the front of the vehicle they were sitting in, and the remaining cars quickly surrounded and boxed in their vehicle," the lawsuit states.
According to the suit, both men rolled down their windows and put their hands in the air because they were "terrified of getting shot." Their fears weren't that off-base: Angulo allegedly jumped out of his car with his gun drawn and pointed it at Menard. When Angulo asked for his driver's license and registration, Menard says he asked, "For what?" Angulo then ripped the driver's door open "with such force that it caused damage to the door of Mr. Menard’s vehicle," the lawsuit states.
Menard says Angulo ripped him out of the car and twisted his left arm behind his back. Another cop approached with a Taser, but Menard says one of the MDPD officers was able to calm Angulo before he seriously hurt anyone.
Ultimately, Menard says he was simply given a ticket for having his car windows tinted too dark. He wound up going to the emergency room at Aventura Hospital, and the cops later wrote that Menard sustained injuries due to "Officer Angulo guiding [Menard] out of the vehicle." Another cop wrote they were "assisting" Menard out of his car.
"As a direct result of Officer Angulo’s actions, Mr. Menard suffered extreme emotional distress and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder," the suit states.
After a complaint was filed with MDPD, the lawsuit says Angulo "lied" and "simply fabricated" that he had pulled Menard over for driving with dark windows. (The suit includes a photo, taken by a neighbor, showing that Menard's car faced opposite the MDPD squad cars that day, casting serious doubt on claims that Angulo "pulled over" Menard.) Additionally, the suit says MDPD's internal affairs unit cited multiple cops on the scene that day for improperly turning off their body cameras or failing to record what had happened.
Angulo kept his job after that incident, but less than three months later, he allegedly waved his gun at another innocent black driver. On November 1, 2017, Stephen Kennan Payne was working as a track-and-field coach at Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High, as well as a reading specialist at Van E. Blanton Elementary. That day, Payne was driving to the track field when he noticed a student-athlete walking to the same practice. He offered the student a ride, and she hopped in. The two were roughly three blocks from the school when an MDPD cruiser allegedly made a U-turn and began following them.
"As the police car continued following him, Mr. Payne became more concerned, as he had done nothing wrong and could not understand why he was being followed," the suit says. "Mr. Payne then pulled his vehicle over to let the police car pass. Instead of passing, Officer Angulo sprung from his police vehicle, and with his gun drawn and pointed at Mr. Payne, began shouting at Mr. Payne."
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Without warning, Angulo allegedly pointed his gun at Payne's head and began screaming, "Get the fuck out of the car!" A terrified Payne gingerly exited the vehicle and lay face-down on the ground to avoid getting shot, he says. He was then handcuffed, he says. As he asked why he was being arrested, Angulo allegedly said he "wasn't answering any fucking questions." Payne says he was then locked in the back of a police cruiser with no air conditioning before being transported to the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center for booking. Payne says he ended up being fired from his job.
"This lawsuit highlights and explores the devastating impact of implicit racial bias in law enforcement," the suit reads. "This is not about racism or deep-rooted prejudice. To the contrary, this is about a latent, subconscious implicit racial bias so prevalent in American society and so widespread in law enforcement. This lawsuit explores many issues facing our society that need addressing: implicit racial bias; police violence; lack of accountability; the so-called “blue code”; lying on reports; rubber-stamping behavior; and the devastating effect on the victims of this behavior."
In 2018, the Miami-Dade County Commission agreed to reinstate the police department's Independent Review Panel, a body of everyday citizens that investigates complaints against cops. But Mayor Carlos Gimenez vetoed that decision after MDPD Director Juan Perez argued that extra oversight of his cops was "not needed."
Since then, MDPD officers have been repeatedly filmed beating suspects. In February, MDPD cops were arrested after New Times published video footage of an officer hitting a handcuffed suspect in the face. The following month, MDPD officers were filmed violently arresting Dyma Loving, a black woman who was trying to report she'd been the victim of a crime.