Crime

Miami officer in viral video relieved of duty; suspect charged

The Miami Police officer who arrested Tony Jose Zaldivar said he was cursed and yelled at before he jumped on Zaldivar in the backseat of a patrol car — a scene that was videotaped with a cellphone camera and viewed almost 100,000 times within a few hours.

Zaldivar, 26, was charged with disorderly conduct and trespassing and taken to jail Thursday night. He was released shortly afterward. When questioned by a local television station, he said the video speaks for itself.

The officer, John Hinson, 35, is a six-year veteran of the Miami police department who primarily patrols the Liberty City neighborhood where the incident took place. He has been suspended, and the confrontation is now being investigated by the police department’s internal affairs division.

Javier Ortiz, president of Miami’s Fraternal Order of Police, said Hinson has a FOP representative but has not given a statement publicly or to police. Ortiz said he’s confident any probe will show Hinson did what he was supposed to do.

What still hasn’t been explained: why Hinson was angered enough to launch his body into the back of the patrol car and on top of Zaldivar.

The controversial video in question was taken shortly before 5 p.m. inside the Liberty Square housing project near Northwest 62nd Street and 12th Avenue. A woman named Marilyn Smith allegedly posted it on her Facebook page Thursday night. Quickly, the video stacked up views.

By Friday morning, it was taken down without explanation.

The 47-second clip shows Hinson placing a handcuffed Zaldivar in the back of a patrol car as people crowd around to watch. With about 10 seconds to go, Hinson is standing just outside the back passenger door, when he lurches into the car, his body covering Zaldivar’s.

At that point, someone knocks the phone from the woman’s hands and she says, “Don’t touch my phone, baby.”

Within a few hours, the video went viral and police announced that Hinson would be relieved of duty.

“We have seen the video, and we have launched a full internal affairs investigation into the matter,” said Miami Police Maj. Delrish Moss.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show Zaldivar has been in trouble with the law before. Most of the arrests were for minor offenses and charges were dropped. In 2008, he pleaded guilty to carrying a concealed weapon.

The release of the video comes at a particularly sensitive time for law enforcement agencies. Videos capturing encounters between police and residents in New York, Cleveland, South Carolina and Baltimore over the past 13 months have sparked major protests.

In at least three of those instances, a black man or child died during an altercation with a white police officer. Hinson and Zaldivar are black.

Ortiz, who expressed frustration over the release of videos placing police in bad light on social media, actually posted the video to his Facebook page Thursday night.

“While the video may seem concerning to some, the FOP [Fraternal Order of Police] is confident that when everything is analyzed within the totality of the circumstances, it will be concluded that the police officer was doing what he is supposed to be doing: protecting our community,” he said.

On Friday, he said the union looks forward to “the Miami police department getting the facts on this case.”

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