Miami-Dade Prosecutors Charge Cops Filmed Hitting Handcuffed Suspect

This past October, New Times obtained a video clip of Miami-Dade Police Sgt. Manuel Regueiro throwing an utterly unnecessary whack to the face of a handcuffed, 18-year-old suspect named Bryan Crespo. It wasn't the first time Regueiro was accused of using excessive force.

Today, Miami-Dade County prosecutors announced they'll charge more than one cop in the incident. State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. today to explain the charges.

Prosecutors are charging Regueiro with misdemeanor battery. A second officer, Alexander Gonzalez, is accused of trying to tamper with or destroy the surveillance footage that captured the assault. Gonzalez is actually in more legal trouble than Regueiro: Rundle's office is charging Gonzalez with a third-degree felony. Gonzalez allegedly removed the batteries from Crespo's video cameras, thinking that this would somehow erase the footage. The plan failed.
Crespo was arrested on March 15, 2018, a time when police alleged someone was stealing airbags from cars. Miami-Dade police suspected that Crespo, who'd been arrested in the past for petty crimes, was behind the thefts, so they executed an arrest warrant at his home. They stormed in wearing military-grade gear while a child was inside.

Video obtained by New Times shows Crespo went peacefully. But that was apparently not good enough for Regueiro, who hit the suspect in the face after Crespo had been handcuffed:

Last year, MDPD spokespeople said the department knew of the video and that Director Juan Perez was troubled by it. A police spokesperson added:

Upon becoming aware of the video in question, a criminal, Internal Affairs investigation was initiated along with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office The officer was relieved of duty, pending the outcome of the investigation, which remains open at this time. As such, in accordance with Florida statutes, no additional information regarding the case can be released until the investigation is concluded.
Crespo's defense lawyer, Cam Cornish, told New Times today that he didn't understand why Rundle's office even took the time it did to file charges.

"I'm heartened to see that the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office is finally charging the two police officers for their criminal behavior,'" Cornish said. "I'm unsure why it took the better part of a year to even charge Sgt. Rogueiro for a crime he committed on video. That being said, this is a step toward justice that is applied equally to all people, regardless of station or office."

This was not the first time Regueiro made the news for allegedly roughing up someone. In 2009, a woman named Sarah Myles alleged a group of MDPD cops fabricated details of her arrest and that Regueiro even broke her wrist by tackling her. She was acquitted of her charges in 2011, but Regueiro remained on the force.

Today's charges, which were first reported by the Miami Herald, come amid a rash of video footage showing various Miami-area cops beating up handcuffed suspects. Last year, City of Miami Officer Mario Figueroa was charged with battery after video showed him kicking at the head of a handcuffed man lying on the ground. In another case, MPD Officer John Askew was filmed stomping on a defenseless woman's head; Askew was not punished in that incident.

New Times last year also published video of a group of MDPD cops punching and violently detaining a man who had been pulled over for tossing a few plastic bottles from his car window.

Just last month, the Miami Herald caught another City of Miami cop, Sgt. Claude Adam, taking a running kick at a defenseless suspect's head, kneeing him in the face, and stomping on the suspect's hand while someone on-camera shouts, "I’m gonna kick you in your f——— mouth, you f——— piece of s—-.” The victim, Ravon Boyd, had his hands in the air when cops attacked him. MDPD cleared Adam of wrongdoing. But it was discovered that another cop, Brian Castro, had conveniently covered his body camera with his hand during the attack. Castro resigned from the force amid an investigation into his conduct.

Last year, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez vetoed the creation of an independent police-oversight panel that would let civilians review complaints against MDPD cops. MDPD Director Juan Perez argued the increased oversight was "not needed."

Last year, Cornish, Crespo's lawyer, also told New Times he also found the footage disturbing — especially since none of the other cops seemed to care that Regueiro had just hit a handcuffed man.

"He did it because he could," Cornish said last year. "He did it because he wanted to. And he did it because he knew that he wasn’t going to get caught. It just so happens that we have proof of what he did."

This is a breaking story. This post will be updated.
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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.