Alessandra Hernani had a ticket for the Ultra Music Festival, but she says she got caught up in a crowd trying to crash the gate on Sunday, the event’s final day in downtown Miami. Once inside, she claims, a Miami police officer restrained her right arm so severely he fractured her arm and elbow.
Miami police, who wouldn’t comment on specific details of the incident, say it’s being reviewed by internal affairs.
Wednesday morning, after spending three nights at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Hernani’s attorney said the 23-year-old Aventura woman who works as a veterinary assistant was undergoing surgery.
“She was the victim of what seems to be police brutality,” said her attorney, Gladys Cardenas. “It seems they thought she went in without a ticket.”
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Miami Police spokesman Michael Vega said that whatever happened Sunday afternoon is now in the hands of investigators “and we can’t release any information.”
If Hernani’s story holds, it would be yet another black eye for the polarizing annual electronic dance music festival in downtown Miami. It has tried to mend its reputation since an incident in 2014 when a security guard was trampled by a mob of gate crashers who tore down a fence trying to get in without tickets.
Since then, the event that attracts more than 160,000 people each year to Miami’s Bayfront Park has undergone a series of changes to try to calm the crowds. New fences similar to the ones used at Formula One races were installed. Patrons are now only permitted in with clear backpacks. The age for entry was raised to 18 and there is a drop-off area where visitors can leave weapons or drugs with no questions asked.
Ray Martinez, the former Miami Beach police chief who now heads up security at the festival, said small groups still occasionally look for weaknesses and try to get in past the last gate. They’re usually met by off-duty police working the event. He said he was not aware of the incident involving Hernani.
Concert-goers now have to get through three gates to get into the festival that often draws some of the top DJs in the world. At the first gate, security checks IDs for age. The second gate is for carry-ins. And tickets are checked at the third gate. Since the gate-crashing incident four years ago, arrests have dropped precipitously.
According to Hernani and her attorney, the incident took place at the third gate at about 5:30 p.m. Sunday, just as special guests The Wailers and Julian Marley were taking the stage. Cardenas said her client — who had a three-day pass for the event — was with her boyfriend when she got caught up in a crowd of more than 100 who tried to break in without tickets.
As she was forced inside the gate, Cardenas said Hernani was separated from her boyfriend and grabbed by an officer who she couldn’t identify. The officer, according to Cardenas, twisted Hernani’s right arm so severely that it fractured her arm and elbow. After about 10 minutes, when Hernani showed him identification and a ticket, the officer released her outside the gate.
Hernani was in so much pain, Cardenas said, that she flagged down another officer who called fire rescue and Hernani was transported to Jackson Memorial.
Cardenas said her client has been interviewed by internal affairs detectives and intends to file a lawsuit. The attorney said she’s seeking video evidence and any other materials to bolster her client’s claims.
“She doesn’t have health insurance and she’s right-handed,” said Cardenas. “Even after showing him her ticket and identification he insisted on separating her from her boyfriend and he took her outside.”