Army Vet Seeks Discipline for Miami Cop Who Threw Him to the Ground

Oscar Julien-Riou, left, and his attorney Rawsi Williams announce a lawsuit against the City of Miami, City of Miami Police Department, and Officer Ioannys Llanes during a press conference on Thursday.
Oscar Julien-Riou, left, and his attorney Rawsi Williams announce a lawsuit against the City of Miami, City of Miami Police Department, and Officer Ioannys Llanes during a press conference on Thursday. Screenshot/WSVN
On the night of December 10, 2018, Oscar Julien-Riou sat on a bench at Alonzo Kelly Park in Liberty City and talked to God.

The minister recorded himself reflecting on his family, his faith, his future in ministry, and some of his life struggles, including a difficult divorce that left him "wandering around" for years. The video — shot in the dark — briefly pans to show a police cruiser parked nearby with the headlights on and the driver's-side door open.

"Miami PD on the spot," Julien-Riou, a U.S. Army veteran and retired Veterans Affairs nurse, says on the video. "On their job, doing what they're supposed to do. Let it be."

After a few minutes, Officer Ioannys Llanes of the Miami Police Department approaches and informs Julien-Riou that the park is closed. Julien-Riou responds that he lives nearby and gets up to leave. The officer then throws him to the ground, claiming Julien-Riou had something in his hand that he had discarded. Julien-Riou tells him it was just his camera.

"Please, sir, you're hurting me," he tells the officer while he's pinned to the ground.

During a press conference yesterday at the same park, Julien-Riou and his attorney, Rawsi Williams, announced their intention to file a lawsuit against the City of Miami, the police department, and the officer.

Williams withdrew a previously filed civil-rights lawsuit to await the outcome of a Miami Police Department (MPD) internal affairs investigation into Julien-Riou's case. The March 2019 complaint against Llanes and the MPD accused the officer of using excessive force, making a false arrest, and using improper procedures.

Earlier this year, the MPD completed its internal affairs investigation and exonerated Llanes of the allegations of excessive force and false arrest. Williams tells New Times her client was distressed to learn that the officer hadn't been disciplined.

Now, Williams and Julien-Riou are demanding that Llanes be fired.

"[Julien-Riou] hasn't been at that park since this happened," Williams says. "He moved away from here because it traumatized him so much. We had [the press conference] there so that people could see that scene for themselves. It was like pulling teeth for me to get him there. He broke down today, being back in that place and reliving that. And he wants justice."

Williams also plans to file a complaint with the City of Miami's Civilian Investigative Panel to have the case reviewed. She says Llanes used unreasonable force against her client, causing him physical and psychological harm. In Julien-Riou's video, he can be heard saying that his back and hip hurt when he was pinned to the ground and handcuffed.

Williams claims that Llanes racially profiled her client and wrongfully detained him for more than two hours while officers searched for drugs Julien-Riou didn't possess to begin with. According to police records, it appears the only reason the officer thought Julien-Riou had drugs on him was because of "past experience and known narcotics activity in the area."

"Why is your first thought that it's some narcotics?" Williams says. "Because that's what he thinks of the people in that neighborhood — that it's a high-drug or high-crime area. He comes in believing these people are committing crimes, and he's using that. He doesn't have a reasonable suspicion to detain people, doesn't have probable cause to arrest, but he does it anyway."

The night Llanes took Julien-Riou to the ground and handcuffed him, the officer repeatedly claimed that Julien-Riou had something in his hand and accused him of tossing it. Llanes told back-up officers who came to the scene the same thing. Julien-Riou repeatedly told Llanes that he hadn't discarded anything and only had his camera in his hand. Several officers and a police K-9 unit searched the park and found nothing.

Officers told Julien-Riou he was under arrest, but Llanes ultimately gave him a notice to appear in court on a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest without violence. Llanes claimed Julien-Riou didn't comply with his verbal orders to sit on the ground and stop resisting.

The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office dropped the charge against Julien-Riou. But the prosecutors who investigated Julien-Riou's accusations against the officer found that Llanes' use of force was justified and not criminal, according to a closeout memo from July 2019.

"The subject was legally in the park performing routine duties," the memo says. "He believed he saw the complainant throw or drop something and acted accordingly. Based on these facts, the criminal investigation is closed."

After the State Attorney's Office determination, MPD's internal affairs division performed its own investigation. An internal affairs memo, dated February 18, 2020, exonerates Llanes on the allegations of excessive force, false arrest, and improper procedure.

"Mr. Julien-Riou did not articulate any physical force used by Officer Llanes that was more than needed to stop him and gain control of the incident," the memo says.

The memo notes "inconsistencies" between the arrest report Llanes wrote up and his body-worn camera footage. Llanes wrote in his report that "[t]he defendant was asked to placed [sic] his hand behind his back at which moment he began to pull away from me, impeding my ability to place his hands behind his back. The defendant was advised several times to stop resisting and to place his hands behind his back."

But the memo notes that a review of Llanes' bodycam footage showed he made no such commands. Llanes said the inconsistency was because he did not review his body-worn camera footage before writing the arrest report.

The internal affairs division found that Llanes violated a departmental policy requiring officers to fill out arrest reports "fully and accurately." Nevertheless, Williams says, the MPD did not administer any discipline.

"How could they gloss over this and keep that man on the police force?" she says. "That indicated consciousness of guilt to cover up for his harassment and racial profiling of a Black man in that park."
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Alexi C. Cardona is a former staff writer at Miami New Times.