A Miami-Dade County police officer is under investigation after he was recorded telling a Black driver during a routine traffic stop, “This is how you guys get killed.”
“You’re going to give me your driver’s license. Give me your driver’s license, registration and insurance. If not, you will not be going to work today. Simple thing, man,” the officer told him on June 15, according to a video recorded by Nicolas and posted to TikTok.
As Nicolas was looking for the registration in his mother’s car and pulling out his license, the officer added, “This is how you guys get killed out here, man.”
While it remains unclear whether the White officer’s comment amounted to a threat or an observation on seat belt safety, the Miami-Dade Police Department announced on Monday that the motorcycle officer is being investigated after video of the incident went viral.
“The officer’s patrol duty was changed to administrative desk duties pending a complete investigation of the traffic stop, the officer’s comments, and conduct,” the department said in a news release. “Rest assured we are committed to transparency and community trust and will address all matters of public concern equitably, fairly, and in accordance with applicable laws.”
The officer has not yet been publicly identified, and the department is withholding additional comment until the probe is complete. George Perez, the interim director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, told the Miami Herald that what the officer was suggesting was what prompted him to order the investigation.
“It’s exactly what the inference is that bothers me,” Perez said.
Nicolas did not immediately respond to a request for comment early Wednesday. He told WFLA this week that the exchange has left him shaken up. One of the captions accompanying his TikTok video says that being Black in America is “a crime, according to Miami Dade police.”
“I was scared, I was scared,” he said. “I didn’t think my life was going to make it.”
More than 1,000 people have been shot and killed by police in the past year, according to data tracked by The Washington Post. Although half of the people shot and killed by police are White, Black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of White Americans. Hispanic Americans are also killed by police at a disproportionate rate.
The Post’s data relies primarily on news accounts, social media postings and police reports. Analysis of more than five years of data reveals that the number and circumstances of fatal shootings and the overall demographics of the victims have remained relatively constant.
The fallout from incidents involving police and Black Americans have continued into this year. Grand Rapids police officer Christopher Schurr was charged this month with second-degree murder for shooting Patrick Lyoya, a 26-year-old Black man, in the back of the head during an April traffic stop. Schurr has pleaded not guilty.
The city of Brooklyn Center, Minn., agreed this week to pay $3.25 million to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit filed by the family of Daunte Wright, according to the family’s attorneys. Wright, an unarmed 20-year-old Black man, was killed during a 2021 traffic stop by a police officer who said she mistook her gun for a Taser.
Nicolas admitted to local media that he was not wearing his seat belt when he was stopped on Northeast 159th Street near 18th Avenue in North Miami Beach. When the officer approached the vehicle, Nicolas began recording the encounter on his cellphone.
“I was looking for my stuff, my license because I didn’t see my wallet. I was looking for my wallet and that wasn’t my car, that was my mom’s car and I didn’t know where the registration was,” Nicolas told WFLA. “He got mad.”
After the officer told Nicolas, “This is how you guys get killed,” the driver appeared stunned.
“What? Say that again? Say what you just said,” Nicolas said, according to video.
The officer responded by again asking for the man’s registration and insurance, and attempted to close Nicolas’s driver’s door. But Nicolas stopped him from closing the door until he clarified what he meant.
“Why [do] we get killed?” Nicolas asked.
The officer then closed the door and pointed his finger in Nicolas’s face.
“Don’t do that again,” the officer said.
As part of its probe, the Miami-Dade Police Department said it is investigating more than 30 minutes of footage from the officer’s body camera.