Five police officers in Miami Beach, Fla., were charged Monday for allegedly using excessive force against two Black men in a hotel lobby about a week ago, as prosecutors say body camera and surveillance footage show cops kicking a handcuffed man on the ground – before tackling another bystander who attempted to record the incident on his cellphone.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle held a press conference to announce the first-degree misdemeanor charges against Miami Beach police Sgt. Jose Perez, Officer Kevin Perez, Officer Robert Sabater, Officer David Rivas and Officer Steven Serrano.
The incident happened on July 26 when police approached 24-year-old Dalonta Crudup for allegedly illegally parking a motor scooter near 13th Street and Ocean Court. Crudup fled the scene, striking one bicycle patrol officer with his scooter, sending him to the hospital to be treated for leg injuries. The officer is now on crutches, the Miami Herald reported.
Surveillance video played out by prosecutors Monday showed another officer then chase Crudup into the lobby of the Royal Palm Hotel in South Beach. The officer orders Crudup onto the ground at gunpoint, and Crudup complies.
Moments later, 20 other officers run into the lobby and surround Crudup, who can be seen on the ground with his hands behind his back. Fernandez Rundle said body camera footage shows Sgt. Jose Perez kick a handcuffed Crudup three times, while Officer Kevin Perez kicked him at least four times.
Surveillance video also showed another man, 28-year-old Khalid Vaughn, using a cellphone to record Crudup’s arrest from about 12 feet away, Fernandez Rundle said. Body camera footage allegedly shows Vaughn backing away at the instruction of an officer when Sabater tackles Vaughn to the floor and repeatedly punches him. Fernandez Rundle said Rivas and Serrano also struck Vaughn.
“It was disheartening to see the way our officers responded,” Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements said at the press conference, according to WTVJ. “As an agency we will learn from this and we will grow from this.”
“Excessive force can never, ever be an acceptable solution,” Fernandez Rundle said. “We’re all really horrified by it. When we see this, it’s alarming, it’s disturbing. Nobody wants this to happen including police departments themselves.”
“This is why duty to intervene in training is necessary,” the state attorney continued, referring to the over a dozen other officers on scene. “They did a grave disservice to the people they have sworn to serve.”
The five officers now charged had previously been suspended, and Fernandez Rundle said additional charges might follow. All five officers turned themselves in earlier Monday, Fraternal Order of Police President Paul Ozeata said.
“They deserve their day in court, just as everyone else does,” the police union leader told the Herald.
Crudup remains charged with fleeing and eluding police, aggravated assault on a police officer and resisting arrest with violence in connection to the incident. Charges against Vaughn of resisting an arrest with violence and impeding a police investigation have since been dropped.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.