A Miami police officer has been removed from duty after a video Thursday appeared to show him kicking the head of a suspect being handcuffed on the ground.
The video was posted to a civilian’s Facebook account and quickly drew tens of thousands of views.
“So city of Miami getting too reckless,” the woman who shared the video wrote. “He was down already. Didn’t have to kick him!!! I will not let this go unnoticed. He was not resisting arrest he got on his knees and put his hands on his head. He WILLINGLY LAID DOWN.”
The video generated media coverage in the Miami Herald as well as other outlets, and police officials put the officer, whom they identified as Mario Figueroa, on paid leave by Thursday afternoon. Figueroa is in his 20s and has less than five years on the force, a spokesman said.
“The video depicts a clear violation of policy,” Miami Police Chief Jorge R. Colina said in a statement.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, which would handle the prosecution of the officer should he be criminally charged, said that a prosecutor had been assigned to open an investigation into the officer’s actions.
“I have watched today’s Culmer Place video involving a uniformed City of Miami Police Officer, and I was shocked and appalled by what I saw,” Katherine Fernandez Rundle, the state attorney for Miami-Dade County, said in a statement.
The incident happened around 9 a.m. in the Overton section of the city, northwest of downtown. Officers spotted a man driving a blue Jeep Cherokee, which came up in their system as stolen, according to a police report. But after officers put on their lights and sirens and tried to pull the man over, the report says, the car sped into a residential complex, where it eventually crashed into a dead end. The man ran away from the car before officers found him in a fenced-in field behind other homes.
Figueroa gave the man verbal commands to get on the ground, at which point the man cursed at him and attempted to run away, the police report said. The officer also attempted to use a stun gun on the man, but it was ineffective, according to the report. Eventually the suspect responded to verbal commands to get on the ground as another officer pointed a stun gun at him. The man, whom police identified as David Vladim Suazo, 31, is charged with vehicle theft, fleeing a police officer, reckless driving, driving with a suspended license, leaving the scene of an accident and resisting an officer without violence.
The video shows officers handcuffing and arresting the suspect. An officer stands with his arms outstretched about five feet away from the man, who is lying on the ground with his hands behind his back, before walking over to him and placing handcuffs on his wrists. At that point, another officer runs over to the suspect and swings his right foot at the man’s head, before dropping onto the suspect and pressing his arms over the man’s head. The officer appears to glance a few times in the direction of the camera. Five officers eventually arrive in the area. Four officers involved in the man’s arrest were wearing body cameras, including Figueroa, the police report notes.
Ed Lugo, the president of the city’s police union, did not immediately return a request for comment.
Mark Berman contributed to this report.