A former Miami Gardens, Fla., police officer has been charged with misconduct and battery stemming from a January incident in which he used a stun gun on a black woman and knelt on her neck, officials announced Thursday.
The charges, coming amid weeks-long protests against police violence against black people, follow an incident with similarities to the May arrest of George Floyd, a black man who died after a now-fired Minneapolis officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert said in a Thursday news conference that he supported Martel’s firing and wants to alert the public that the law applies to everyone, including those sworn to uphold it.
“The standards that our community require aren’t subject to interpretation,” he said. “If [police] violate those professional standards, then we will terminate them. If their conduct rises to the level where it’s criminal, [State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle] is going to prosecute you.”
An affidavit for Martel’s arrest states Satchell and her friend Raheam “Remy” Staats-Flemming left the nightspot after being dissatisfied with the service and were refunded money for food.
Satchell threw tip money at a waitress on her way out, prompting the club’s manager to notify security that he wanted uniformed Miami Gardens police officers who were working off-duty security to issue trespass warnings to Satchell and Staats-Flemming that would prevent them from returning for another visit, according to court records.
As Satchell and her friend were about to leave the club’s parking lot, a security person stood in front of their black Mercedes SUV and Martel walked up to the driver side to speak with Satchell through her rolled-down window, according to the affidavit.
The records state Martel told Satchell that he needed her information because she was being given a trespass warning, despite her attempt to leave. He had no legal grounds to detain her, court records state.
When Martel instructed Satchell to walk to his police car, records state, she requested to drive over because she wasn’t wearing shoes.
Less than 30 seconds after his first command for Satchell to walk over to his patrol car, Martel’s tone of voice grew agitated, according to court documents.
“Either you come out with me and do the trespass, or you are getting arrested,” Martel said, stating that Satchell would be cuffed for “resisting without violence,” according to the affidavit.
Records state that Satchell asked her friend to record what was happening and told Martel that her father was also a police officer, to which he replied: “Okay. I don’t care about that.”
The two then engaged in a struggle that involved Martel reaching into the vehicle and trying to pull Satchell out while she tried to stop him from doing so, court records show.
Once he pulled her out of the vehicle, Martel, who is 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds, used a leg sweep to force Satchell to the ground, according to the affidavit.
He knelt on the 5-3, 117-pound woman’s neck and used a stun gun twice in her abdomen area even though he had control of her left arm and another officer had control of her right, the affidavit states.
Miami Gardens police officer arrested after video shows him with knee on woman’s neck, stunning her with a Taser twice. Officer’s lawyer calls the arrest “politically motivated.” Here’s full video clip taken by the woman’s friend https://t.co/wDlUINtz4d pic.twitter.com/XPEMDYmJ0z— David Ovalle (@DavidOvalle305) June 26, 2020
Satchell was transported to Miami’s Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center that night.
Investigators found that Martel’s retelling of the encounter in an arrest affidavit for Satchell and an incident report had inaccuracies about what happened. Body-camera footage and Staats-Flemming’s cellphone footage, which captured a significant portion of the event, contradicts claims he made in official documents, according to court records.
After reviews of footage and audio, Martel is accused of not mentioning arrest as often as he said he did in the reports, being the aggressor in the interaction and lying about Satchell fighting him and the other officer, according to the affidavit.
Satchell incurred abrasions on her stomach from the stun gun and other bruising on her arms and legs as a result of the arrest, resulting in Martel being accused of using “excessive force,” according to the affidavit.
The local police union told CBS Miami that Martel’s charges seem to be a reaction to nationwide events surrounding law enforcement. Martel’s attorney, Douglas Hartman, did not immediately respond to requests for comment but told the Miami Herald he thought the charges were a “political move.”
Jonathan Jordan, Satchell’s attorney, told the station in a statement that officers should be mindful of their actions.
“If you’re an officer that has broken policy or acted under color of law with a belief that black lives don’t matter, you ought to be looking over your shoulder, because the chickens have finally come home to roost,” he said.