It’s been a tough couple of days for Broward law enforcement agencies whose officers were caught on video in two violent physical confrontations with subjects in custody.
Nine-year veteran Fort Lauderdale police officer Victor Ramirez was shown in a YouTube video pushing a homeless man to the ground and slapping him at a Broward bus station on Sunday. On Monday, a Broward sheriff’s detention deputy, Christopher Johnson, was seen in a cellphone video shot by a courthouse blogger dragging a screaming woman down a courthouse hallway by her leg shackles.
Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Franklin Adderley placed Ramirez on administrative leave pending the outcome of a criminal investigation by the Broward state attorney’s office and a police internal affairs probe. Broward Sheriff Scott Israel put Johnson on restricted duty while his department’s internal affairs unit investigates.
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A bystander at the Broward Central Bus Terminal shot video of Ramirez, wearing blue plastic gloves, holding Bruce Laclair’s arm before throwing him down.
“Relax. I am telling you right now what’s going to happen,” Ramirez tells Laclair, wearing gray sweats and sitting on the ground. “I’m escorting you out right now. You are not going to go pee. You are not supposed to be here.”
The officer tells Laclair to get up and then is seen slapping him in the face. Laclair falls over.
“I’m not [expletive] with you. Don’t [expletive] touch me,” Ramirez says. “Put your hands behind your back.”
Laclair reportedly was taken to jail on trespassing charges, but was released Monday night. Fort Lauderdale attorney Steve Rossi said Laclair retained him on Tuesday.
“For now, I’m not charging him anything,” Rossi said. “I just want to find out what’s going on. I’m just collecting the info. I want to see if there are any other videos out there. I want to see what the state attorney is going to do on this.”
“I’m p----d off,” Laclair told reporters. “Most of the police officers are very reasonable, good people. They just have a job to do. This guy, I don’t know what his problem is.”
At a news conference Tuesday at Fort Lauderdale police headquarters, City Manager Lee Feldman called the video “clearly disturbing” and “not representative” of the 515-member police force.
“We are committed to doing the right thing — not just by the city but the entire community,” Feldman said.
In the other incident Monday at the Broward courthouse, Johnson attempted to take Dasyl Rios to jail, reportedly for being loud and disruptive during a competency hearing. In a cellphone video shot by attorney Bill Gelin, a courthouse blogger, Rios is seen being dragged by the shackles on her ankles and yelling, “You’re hurting me. You’re [expletive] hurting me. Stop. You don’t give nobody a chance. All I wanted to do was sob for a few minutes, cry. That’s all I wanted to do was cry for a few minutes because my life is in your hands.”
Witnesses said Rios was sitting on a bench outside the courtroom weeping when the deputy yelled at her, grabbed her by the feet, and dragged her down the hallway. Several other deputies surrounded them, and Rios pleaded with them not to take her back to jail.
In a statement, Sheriff Scott Israel said, “I am concerned by the way the deputy handled this situation because there were other courses of action he could have taken.” He promised a “complete and comprehensive” investigation.
In an interview with CBS4, Rios’ mother, Sylvia Rios, described how her daughter begged her for help as she was being dragged away.
“It’s just the most horrible feeling,” Sylvia Rios said. “You’re helpless. At that moment, I lost all my faith in the judicial system.”