Early Saturday morning, Miami-area musician Emanuel David Williams had a tense encounter with police. Williams says he was complying with instructions from a trio of Miami Police officers before whipping out his cell phone and recording them. The resulting footage made it online. Though it's unclear how the incident began, the clips that Williams, age 30, published this week on Instagram show one Miami officer threatening Williams for simply recording him just after 12:30 a.m. in Overtown.
"Do not put the phone in my face!" one officer, identified as "Gonzalez," shouts in the second of two clips posted. The cop then swats the phone from Williams' hand, and it lands with its camera facing skyward. The recording captures multiple MPD officers grabbing Williams from all sides.
"Oh, my God!" Williams shouts. The cops then shout at him to "stop resisting," to which Williams repeatedly screams he is not resisting and can't breathe.
According to an arrest report obtained by New Times, the three officers arrived on the scene after Williams' ex-girlfriend asked for assistance with removing some items from their home. The cops do not state in their arrest documents that Williams acted violently toward them — instead, an officer listed as W. Gonzalez stated he arrested Williams simply for getting too close to him with his cell phone.
"The defendant then continued to place his cellphone within very close proximity of my face, once again breaching the distance within my reactionary gap, at which point I advised the defendant that he was under arrest, at which point I grabbed the defendant by the arm and attempted to directed [sic] him to the ground to effect the arrest," Gonzalez wrote. The officer further alleged that Williams continued to tense his body and that he entered a police vehicle only "after another struggle."
Williams is charged with disorderly conduct and resisting an officer without violence, both misdemeanors.
Reached by phone, Williams tells New Times that when he arrived on the scene, the officers prevented him from entering his apartment without explaining why. After the officers told him to move across the street, he was confused why the trio then followed him to the other side, he says. Once the cops swatted his phone away, he was stunned that his phone wound up catching more of the incident by accident.
"I was shocked my phone even picked up the part after they knocked it out of my hand," he says. "I only got my phone back after I got out of jail. I didn't think my phone caught all that."
Williams says that once the cops pinned him to the ground, they repeatedly punched him in the head. He says he felt like he was experiencing concussion symptoms and still has scrapes and bruises on his face and hands.
Spokespeople for Miami PD did not immediately respond to messages from New Times. But after this story was initially published, MPD Public Information Officer Kenia Fallat issued an email Wednesday stating that the "City of Miami Police Department is aware of a cellular phone video surfacing on social media showing our uniformed officers involved in an arrest with a suspect who was filming. Our Internal Affairs Section is also aware and investigating the circumstances that led up to the video."
Courts have generally ruled that civilians are allowed to record on-duty police officers in public. Nevertheless, Miami cops have been accused on multiple occasions of harassing or arresting people who chose to film their encounters with officers.
"Last night I was assaulted by 3 #miami police officers in front of my own home," Williams wrote Sunday on social media. "These thugs knocked my phone out of my hand threw me to the ground and punched me repeatedly in the head."
The three cops in the video are identified only by their last names: Hernandez, Allen, and Gonzalez. In the first clip, Gonzalez, standing on a public street, repeatedly tells Williams to stop recording him.
"Sir, if you put that phone in my face again, we're going to have a problem," Gonzalez says on camera. The cops then state they are giving Williams a "lawful order" to cross the street and stand on the sidewalk. Williams complies — only for Gonzalez to swat the phone from his hand and handcuff him anyway.
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"Officer Hernandez and Officer Allen, why are you in my face?" Williams asks in the first video.
"Because we can be," Allen responds.
Williams tells New Times this was the second time he felt he was the victim of misconduct at the hands of MPD cops. Earlier this year, he was driving for Uber when a Miami officer pulled him out of his car and detained him for 40 minutes, he says. After this weekend's incident, he's debating whether his headache is severe enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room.
"They had their way with me," he says. "There was nothing I could have done. If I had reacted at all or fought back, I could be sitting in a cell or have been shot dead. The only thing I could do to stay alive was let it happen."