Prosecutors won’t charge two Miami-Dade police officers who were accused of dangerously abandoning a blind arrestee on the streets of Naranja.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s concluded that the officers’ “actions reflects poorly on them and on their department” but there was not enough evidence prove to file criminal charges.
Miami-Dade officers Clifton Baldwin and Julio Martos both claimed, through their attorneys, that they did not know Tannie Burke, 23, was blind when they left him on a street in August 2014 after slapping him with a misdemeanor marijuana charge.
Burke had to stagger home — he estimated he encountered some 20 cars during the dangerous walk. Ultimately, a good Samaritan helped him walk home.
In a final report released this week, prosecutors said they could not disprove that cops’ claim that they didn’t know Burke was blind, even though his stepfather can be heard in a cellphone video telling them he is blind during an eight-minute tirade against the officers. They state said it could not file a charge of culpable negligence because “encountering roughly 20 cars is insufficient to prove [the allegations] beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Miami-Dade police’s internal affairs bureau must now conduct its own investigation to see if they broke any department rules.
Burke’s story was first reported by Miami Herald news partner WFOR-CBS4.
He suffers from Coat’s disease, a rare eye disorder that has left him blind in his left eye, and mostly blind in the other He can only see some light and shapes.
On Aug. 27, 2014, Burke and two friends were arrested for marijuana possession outside an an apartment on the 26200 block of Southwest 14th Place. He was placed in the police car, as his stepfather repeatedly yelled at the officers, telling them “he’s blind.”
The officers were going to book Burke, but a call went out for help searching for a suspect in an unrelated case. They patrolled around for about 15 minutes before they decided to release Burke, who signed a form promising to appear in court.
He asked them to return him to his neighborhood because it was dark and he could not see. “It was at this time that he explained his condition,” prosecutor Devon Helfmeyer wrote in a final memo on the case.
But Burke could not remember if the officers acknowledged his condition and they later disputed his claim.
The officers also claimed Burke didn’t want to be dropped off by his home so that neighbors wouldn’t think he was a “snitch” getting out of police car. Burke denies that.
Nevertheless, Baldwin and Martos dropped him off at intersection; it took him about a half-an-hour to get home, walking against traffic so he could make out the light of oncoming cars. It took him more than 30 minutes to find his way home.