Miami P.D. defends cop’s punches
04/09/2013 2:20 PM
04/09/2013 8:13 PM
Miami homicide Detective Fernando Bosch is accustomed to being in front of a camera.
For the past seven years, he has starred in the popular A&E reality cop show The First 48 , which profiles real crime fighters solving murders in some of America’s toughest cities.
The cameras rolled Monday on a bloody street corner near Overtown, as Bosch, 48, was captured in a drama of a different kind. With TV news choppers recording from the sky and cameramen from the TV show also taping, Bosch repeatedly punched a man who had crossed a yellow police tape and lunged into the thick of a murder investigation.
The ensuing video, shown all across the country, rekindled a debate over the proper use of force by police, with a law enforcement consultant saying it appeared he used more than was necessary.
“Once an officer uses force, he is supposed to de-escalate the force as the suspect de-escalates his resistance, said consultant Chuck Drago, a former assistant chief in Fort Lauderdale. “Instead, we see the officer pushing and hitting him.’’ Miami police officials Tuesday reiterated that Bosch did nothing wrong.
The chaos began after Brandon Walker, 25, was found shot to death, with bullet casings sprinkled around him on the pavement at Northwest Third Avenue and NW 22nd Street about 4:30 p.m..
Grieving family members converged at the scene. Walker’s body was covered in a tarp and cordoned off with yellow crime scene tape to keep people from disturbing the crime scene.
Walker’s brother, Antwan Carl Walker, 27, suddenly ran under the tape, toward the victim’s body, knocking over evidence markers. A group of uniformed and plainclothes officers corralled Walker, removing him from the area, as he appeared to struggle.
His 28-year-old brother, Anthony Walker, then jumped into the fray to help, though its not clear whether he was trying to get his brother away from police or whether he had deliberately inserted himself into the fracas.
Bosch appeared, grabbing Anthony Walker by the head, yanking him out of the scrum and holding him in a headlock. He pushed Walker backward, then leveled three quick blows to his head and upper body.
Walker broke free and Bosch grabbed him around his neck and pushed him away. Then, as the distraught relative stood steps away, Bosch put one last fist in Walker’s face.
The Walkers were arrested on charges of resisting arrest. Anthony Walker also faced a charge of battery on a police officer. Both Walkers have lengthy rap sheets, including charges of resisting arrest and battery on a law enforcement officer.
Anthony Walker’s mug shot showed the confrontation had left his face bruised. Police officials said Bosch suffered cuts and bruises as well.
Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa declined to comment Tuesday. Police spokesman Freddy Cruz, however, said Bosch’s use of force was justified, and as of Tuesday, no internal affairs investigation was underway.
“We see no wrongdoing at this point,’’ Cruz said.
Miami’s Fraternal Order of Police agreed, saying that Bosch used the appropriate amount of force in order to protect the integrity of the crime scene and prevent harm to himself, other officers and civilians.
But Drago said the video seems to show that Walker was trying to help pull his brother away from the scene.
Drago acknowledged that the video is only a snapshot in time and could well be taken out of context. “The individual may have said to the detective, ‘I’m going to kill you now’ — that’s entirely possible,’’ he said.
But after Bosch grabbed Walker, the detective went too far, Drago said.
“I don’t see where this suspect is threatening in any way [at that point],’’ said Drago, a 30-year veteran of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department who served as an assistant chief and also became chief of a department near Orlando.
When grieving family members are reacting, as they often do, officers are trained to quell tensions, not to inflame them by using unnecessary force, Drago added.
“It’s the difficult line officers deal with every day — dealing with people at their worst, while being professional,’’ he said.
Saliha Nelson, vice president of a community-based organization in the neighborhood called Urgent, said the episode demonstrated a lack of compassion and understanding by police, although she said the community’s larger problem is pervasive violence.
FOP President Javier Ortiz said the video, which has no sound, does not tell the whole story.
Anthony Walker, Ortiz said, attempted to choke the officer by pulling on his necktie as Bosch held in a headlock. Then, after Walker broke free, he went into a “fighting stance,’’ holding up his fists to Bosch in a threatening manner.
“An individual crossing a police tape may be there to destroy evidence or obstruct justice,’’ Ortiz said. “In the heat of the moment our number one objective is to preserve the scene in order to bring justice to the deceased and his family.’’
Miami Herald staff writer Jacqueline Charles contributed to this report.
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