The raid was over, the arrests made. But as Miami-Dade police officers led one suspect to a patrol car, prosecutors say, Sgt. Manuel Regueiro approached the handcuffed 18-year-old and slapped him squarely across the face.
What Regueiro appeared not to know at the time: A home surveillance system caught it all.
On Tuesday, two police officers were charged with crimes — Regueiro for misdemeanor battery, and another officer for trying to destroy the video evidence of his supervisor hitting the cuffed suspect.
The footage wasn’t a secret for long, as the man on the receiving end of the slap, Bryan Crespo, told the police they were being filmed shortly after Regueiro hit him. After that, the surveillance video showed Officer Alex Gonzalez, along with Regueiro and two other officers, entering the front bedroom of Crespo’s home, where the security system was housed, according to an arrest warrant for Gonzalez.
Then it went dark.
Security footage from a neighbor’s house captured Gonzalez leaving Crespo’s Miami home and walking to his unmarked police cruiser carrying a box wrapped in a pillowcase. Inside, prosecutors say, was the surveillance system’s battery, which Gonzalez apparently confused for the system itself.
Back in Crespo’s home, the warrant said, his mother found the surveillance system’s wiring cut.
Prosecutors charged Gonzalez with tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony, and misdemeanor petty theft.
“Shameful we have to take these actions,” the department’s director, Juan Perez, said in a Tuesday tweet. “However, any officer violating the law will face the consequences, including arrest and prosecution.”
The department also placed the officers on administrative leave for their roles in the incident, which took place in March 2018.
Crespo’s attorney applauded the new criminal charges but questioned why it took the local state attorney’s office so long to file them.
“It took the better part of a year, but it’s a step toward applying justice equally,” the lawyer, Cam Cornish, told the Miami Herald.
Cornish told the newspaper that Crespo plans to file a lawsuit against Regueiro, too. In the meantime, though, Crespo has his own criminal charges to deal with. He’s currently awaiting trial in connection to the case that brought Miami-Dade officers to his home in the first place.
That day, authorities said, police arrested Crespo and two others as part of an investigation into the theft of car air bags.
Regueiro’s attorney, C. Michael Cornely, told the Herald that the sergeant and his auto theft unit had worked hard to catch the alleged thieves. The slap was justified, he said, because Crespo was going to spit at Regueiro.
“It’s ridiculous, the whole thing,” Cornely said of the charges against the officers. “It just shows you that police work is thankless.”
But Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said Regueiro’s actions are exacerbating an already tense relationship between law enforcement and the public.
“It’s infuriating,” she said in an interview with the Herald. “This is happening at a time when police and community relations are already stressed.”
Locally, several videos have recently surfaced that show police officers hitting suspects in custody.
In January, the Herald published body camera footage of a 2017 incident that shows Miami Police Sgt. Claude Adam rushing a suspect who had his hands in the air, surrendering. The video appears to show Adam kicking and kneeing the suspect in the head. The department’s internal affairs office cleared Adam of wrongdoing, but last month the city’s civilian oversight board said it would examine the case.
However, a key piece of evidence could be missing: At a crucial moment, as Adam took the suspect into custody, another officer covered up his body camera and the screen went dark.