Miami Cop Used Unnecessary Force on Army Vet, Civilian Panel Finds

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
Last summer, more than a year after he was thrown to the ground by a City of Miami police officer in Liberty City, Oscar Julien-Riou and his attorney filed a complaint against the officer, alleging that the cop had falsely arrested him and used excessive force in the process.

After looking into the case, the Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP) — an independent oversight board that investigates complaints against City of Miami police — agreed that the officer, Ioannys Llanes, used unnecessary force, made a false arrest, engaged in misconduct, and did not follow proper police procedures.

Although the panel cannot enforce discipline, Riou's attorney, Rawsi Williams, says Llanes deserves to be reprimanded.

"We want severe discipline for his egregious actions," she said in an email to New Times.

Williams calls the encounter a clear example of racial profiling against Julien-Riou, a Black Army veteran.

"This racial profiling and police brutality against African-Americans must STOP! We are people too," she said in her email.

The incident happened on the evening of December 10, 2018 when Llanes approached Julien-Riou at Alonzo Kelly Park. Julien-Riou was sitting on a park bench talking to God, recording himself with a handheld camera while he contemplated his life struggles, his faith, his family, and his future in ministry.

After Llanes informed him that the park was closed, Julien-Riou said he lived nearby and got up to leave. But the officer grew suspicious of something Julien-Riou had in his hand. Although Julien-Riou tried to explain that it was just his camera, the officer ordered him to take a seat, then threw him to the ground, handcuffed him, and searched him.

In a video captured by Julien-Riou's camera, he can be heard repeatedly telling Llanes that he was hurting him.

"My hip hurt, my back hurt," Julien-Riou says in the video.

The CIP discussed the case at its meeting last week. In addition to Julien-Riou's video, panel members also reviewed a recording from Llanes' body-worn camera.

"The video was concerning," chairwoman Eileen Damaso said of the body-worn camera footage. "Mr. Riou was very calm. There was nothing aggressive about it. I think it was fear in his eyes. The video concerned me, and I just want to say that."

According to police reports, Llanes suspected Julien-Riou had drugs on him because of "past experience and known narcotics activity in the area." Backup officers and a police K-9 searched the park to no avail.

"Despite holding Mr. Riou there handcuffed for multiple hours, they found no contraband in that park," Williams told CIP members during the meeting.

Llanes and the other officers told Julien-Riou that he was under arrest, but they ultimately gave him a notice to appear in court for a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest without violence. The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office later dismissed the charge.

Prior to the CIP reviewing the case, the State Attorney's Office and the Miami Police Department (MPD) also investigated Julien-Riou's claims of excessive force by Llanes. Prosecutors found the officer's use of force was justified. The MPD's Internal Affairs Division also defended Llanes' use of force, arguing that it was "reasonable and consistent with Mr. Julien-Riou's level of resistance" and that the body-worn camera footage "corroborates the initial encounter and reasons for Officer Llanes' investigation."

But the MPD did find inconsistencies between Llanes' body-worn camera footage and the arrest form he wrote up for Julien-Riou. Llanes wrote in his report that he repeatedly ordered Julien-Riou to stop resisting and place his hands behind his back. Body-cam footage showed that Llanes made no such commands; he only told Julien-Riou to sit down.

IA investigators chalked up the inconsistencies to Llanes failing to review the footage before writing his arrest report.

The CIP went one step farther, sustaining a misconduct allegation against Llanes because of his "inaccurate portrayal of what he said and what occurred in his arrest affidavit."

Panel members also said the body-cam violations were an example of improper procedure. And the CIP said there was no reason for officers to be at the scene of a misdemeanor arrest for upward of three hours.

Williams, the attorney for Julien-Riou, says the MPD did not discipline Llanes, despite finding that he was untruthful on his arrest report. CIP staff investigator Elisabeth Albert could not confirm whether Llanes was disciplined because the police department did not respond to her request for documentation of any disciplinary action against the officer.

Nevertheless, Williams tells New Times she is grateful the CIP sustained most of the allegations against Llanes.

"The crazy thing here is that we first attempted to obtain a righteous result and mere discipline of Officer Llanes with IA, but the MPD covered for and condoned their employee's actions, exonerating him of false arrest," she said in her email.
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Alexi C. Cardona is a former staff writer at Miami New Times.