His sister Jessica, an aspiring police officer eight years his junior, drove up. The officers told her to park the car and wait.
Michel: : My sister asked me, “What happened?” I said, “You won’t believe it. I fit the description.”
At some point, Michel was placed in handcuffs — “for officers’ safety,” according to the police incident report.
Michel: “I said, “Oh, my God, are you kidding me? I didn’t do it.”
My sister got out of her car and asked, “Why are you arresting him?”
Police officers — who would later explain that Michel was “detained” and never under arrest — told him then that they were waiting for a witness to be brought byand say whether he was or wasn’t the armed robber.
After a while, a police cruiser pulled into the parking lot where Michel was now being detained. The cruiser, apparently bearing a witness, parked. No one emerged. After three minutes, the cruiser drove away.
Michel: I said “Of course she’s not going to recognize me, because it’s not me. So let me go.”
About that time, a black man rode by on a bike. He was wearing a light gray shirt and tan pants.
Michel: Sgt. Davis ordered another officer, “Go get him!”
I turned around and asked, “Why am I still here? Your witness can’t ID me because I’m not the person. I know all black people look alike but your officers won’t check my book bag after I repeatedly asked him to verify that only my items are in there.”
A Sgt. Davis said: “You fit the description!”
I said, “Are you kidding me? What’s the description?”
Michel said Sgt Davis then told him the description: “ Black guy, black shirt, blue jeans with a beard.”
Ok, said Michel, then why did you just tell that officer to stop the cyclist? His clothing in no way matched the description of the armed robber.
Michel said Sgt. Davis responded: “ Uh, well. he has on a backpack. Clothes could be in there.”
About 10 minutes later, a second police cruiser drove into the parking lot, evidently carrying the second witness. The CVS guard had not seen the robbery, but had reported seeing a black man run past him and throw a clear Tupperware container to the ground. The parking lot ritual was repeated. The witness remained inside the police car. After a brief interval, the cruiser drove away.
It was apparent to Michel that neither of the witnesses had identified him. He began to complain that the cuffs were too tight and that his hands were getting “tingly”
Michel: Sgt. Davis or Officer Alston“ both touched the handcuffs and say, “No, they are all right.”
Michel sensed the officers were getting tired of his attitude.
Michel: A Lt. Fernandez said, “You need to respect us!”
“I said respect goes both ways. I’m the one in handcuffs.
Officer Alston asked, “Jimmy, what do you want us to do?”
I said, “Let me go. You got nothing.”
And finally, they did just that.
That night, Michel couldn’t sleep so he sat down at his computer and typed out his “Affidavit of Truth,” a 13-page document that described the encounter in excruciating detail. Two days later, he went to the Davie police station and presented it. He says the detective who took it stated, “We don’t need it.”
He was invited to file an internal affairs complaint if he wished.
Capt. Engle. who says internal affairs is looking into the matter, read Michel’s affidavit and believes the episode happened “much the way he said it did.”
But he added, “From what I read, even based on what he says, the officers were within their rights to do what they did.
“They responded to an armed robbery. Unfortunately this guy was in the area. He matched the general description of two people. I think the officers have an obligation to the community to try to see if that was him,” Engle said.
As to Michel’s pleas that cops look inside his backpack, Engle said there was no need. He could have tossed the gun and stolen goods (purse, cell phone credit cards and $7) at any point.
As for the significant difference between the height described by the victim and the much taller Michel (although he says he is 6-3, public records say 6-1), Engle said people being robbed at gunpoint often fixate on the barrel of the weapon, and may take little note of the robber’s height.
All of which is of little comfort to Michel.
“What was super upsetting to me — aside from begin put in handcuffs — is that they didn’t even have the courtesy to apologize for being wrong,” he said..
“If you’re wrong your wrong, You should be able to say. ‘Hey look, man, We’re sorry it wasn’t you.’.... But not even that.”
As of last week, police were still looking for the robber.