Crime

A cop kicked at a suspect’s head and another covered his bodycam. Now, it’s under review.

Bodycam video shows Miami police officer kicking at suspect’s head

One Miami police officer was cleared after kicking at a robbery suspect’s head as he went to the ground. Another resigned after blocking his bodycam video with his hand.
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One Miami police officer was cleared after kicking at a robbery suspect’s head as he went to the ground. Another resigned after blocking his bodycam video with his hand.

Ravon Boyd was cornered in an alley between homes in an Overtown development known as “The Skittles.” As police raced to the robbery suspect, Boyd put his hands in the air, then lowered himself with his face toward the ground, hands outstretched on the turf in front of him.

Just then, an officer ran up to him and kicked at Boyd’s face. That was followed by other officers pummeling him as he kept his hands up trying to protect himself.

Yet when the officers filled out use-of-force reports and were questioned by Internal Affairs investigators, all had the same story: When they reached Boyd, his hands were under his body and they feared for their lives, believing he was “reaching for a weapon.”

Body camera footage obtained by the Miami Herald appears to contradict their claims. It shows Boyd with his hands in the air trying to surrender as officers approach and as Miami Police Sgt. Claude Adam rushes toward him and kicks his right foot at the suspect’s head. He then appears to knee Boyd in the face, steps on the suspect’s left foot and tumbles to the ground.

As Adam delivers his kick, someone can be heard saying, “I’m gonna kick you in your f------ mouth, you f------ piece of s---.”

Internal Affairs cleared Adam of any wrongdoing. He claimed his foot never made contact and he was kicking at a dark object on the ground. He told investigators that he “kicked the black item out of the reach of the subject.” After Adam’s kick, several officers can be seen converging on and flailing at Boyd before he’s taken into custody.

Police determined that one of them, officer Brian Castro, covered his body camera with his hand during a pivotal sequence while officers were taking Boyd into custody. Castro resigned while the department was processing paperwork to fire him over the incident. The two other officers listed as using force by the city were Juan Casiano and Alan Perez.

For 25 seconds during Boyd’s arrest, the screen is blank. During that time a series of loud grunts can be heard, but it’s unclear if they came from Boyd or from any of the officers who were out of breath after running to the scene.

Now, almost two years after the incident — long after the video was discovered by Miami’s virtual policing unit and turned over to Internal Affairs — Miami’s Civilian Investigative Panel, whose main task is police oversight, is examining the case.

“It appears to me they didn’t discern what was truly seen on the video. They didn’t hear what we heard, which required some careful listening,” said Cristina Beamud, the panel’s executive director. “They didn’t explore the notion that there was no object and it appeared that [Adam] made contact with [Boyd’s] head.”

Beamud and the Civilian Investigative Panel investigator looking into the case are expected to forward their findings to the full panel in February.

Miami Police Maj. Jesus Ibalmea, who commands Internal Affairs, said before clearing Adam the department reached out to the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office twice and that both times he was told the incident didn’t seem to warrant a criminal charge. He also said Boyd’s attorney Andrew Rier turned down a request to come forward and provide a statement.

Ibalmea agreed Boyd placed his hands in the air and went to the ground as police approached. But Ibalmea said it’s not clear what happened during the 25 seconds that Castro covered his body camera, just as Boyd seems to be protecting himself while being pummeled and curls into a fetal position before he’s handcuffed. Two other officers were assigned body cameras that day as well, Ibalmea said, but Castro’s offered the best view of the confrontation between police and Boyd.

“It’s very difficult to tell conclusively if Boyd is struck or not” by Adam, Ibalmea said. “He said he was kicking at a black object. We kind of took that at face value. If Boyd comes forward and gives us a statement, I’ll be happy to reopen the case.”

Boyd’s attorney Rier said he turned down the opportunity to give a statement because he was told by prosecutors that anything said by his client could or would be used at trial. He also said he never got the video during the discovery phase of Boyd’s trial. Boyd was convicted of strong-arm robbery and is currently serving a 44-month prison sentence.

After seeing the video for the first time last week, Rier said he would contact Boyd’s mother with the intention of speaking to internal affairs.

“He clearly gave himself up. He was laying in a prone position. He was covering his head,” Rier said. “The video shows no effort to secure the suspect. It shows a singular effort to beat the suspect and a deliberate effort to conceal the beating.”

The kick by Adam is similar to an incident that occurred in Overtown last May and led to the firing of Miami Police Officer Mario Figueroa, who was charged with assault. Figueroa was caught on video racing toward a carjacking suspect and kicking at his head. The kick missed, but the difference, Ibalmea said, was that the suspect in the Figueroa incident was already in custody and lying flat on the ground when the officer acted.

The messy incident involving Boyd began at a Sunoco Gas Station on the corner of Northwest Second Avenue and 36th Street, on a May afternoon in 2017. That’s when, a man told police, he had just walked out of the store after paying for gas and was assaulted by two men.. One of them, later identified as Daniel Copeland, rushed at him, he said, knocking him down and kicking him in the head. As he was being beaten, Boyd grabbed money out of his pocket, the man told police.

The beating victim managed to get the license of the white Toyota Rav4 that Copeland and Boyd got into as they drove off. Police matched it to the plate seen on video surveillance at the gas station, they said. Three hours later Miami police officers Casiano and his partner Castro spotted the SUV parked at 1990 NW Fifth Pl. They waited until Copeland and Boyd made their way to the vehicle, then along with other officers, tried to take the men into custody.

Boyd ran, according to police, and was cornered a short while later in an alley behind a home at 360 NW 20th St. Police said he was wearing a black tactical vest that he dumped during the chase. The vest was never found.

Then, Casiano wrote in Boyd’s arrest affidavit, “The defendant was tucking his hands under his body not allowing officers to place hand restraints on the defendant. After a brief struggle the defendant’s hands became free and I was able to place him into custody.”

It’s that half minute or so that led to internal affairs clearing Adam of any wrongdoing. Though audible grunts can be heard, Castro had covered his camera lens and it’s unclear exactly what took place.

“Absolutely,” Ibalmea said. “The problem is what we can’t see.”

What you hear, said Rier, “are guttural grunts of men beating another man.” Then, Rier said you can hear an officer say, “are you sorry now?”

The video was discovered in November of 2017, six months after the incident, when the police department’s Virtual Policing Unit was responding to a subpoena in the case. It was passed on to Internal Affairs which concluded its investigation and cleared Adam of any wrongdoing in August, 2018. An investigator with Miami’s Civilian Investigative Panel began looking into officer’s actions last September after receiving an anonymous tip.

Boyd was initially charged with resisting arrest without violence and possessing less than 20 grams of marijuana. On a separate arrest form the same day, he was charged with strong-arm robbery. At trial, facing a probation violation for his actions from the May 12 incident in 2017, Boyd was sentenced to 44 months in prison.

There is no mention in Boyd’s arrest reports or in the use-of-force reports that he was kicked at or that he had his hands in the air or was going to the ground when police converged on him. And despite the video showing several officers striking Boyd’s upper body as he was on the ground and a picture of Boyd taken by police after the altercation showing a large swollen bruise on the right side of his face, several of the officers who were at the scene said in their reports that Boyd showed no signs of injury.

None of the nine officers involved in Boyd’s arrest admitted to seeing Adam kick at the suspect’s head.

“Does it look bad? Absolutely,” said Ibalmea, the internal affairs commander. “At the end of the day we want to do what’s right.”

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