The moment and its uncomfortable aftermath were recorded on a bystander’s cellphone, and that video has since swept social media, prompting poignant questions and triggering outcry.
The Miami-Dade Police Department released body-camera footage of the arrest Thursday, citing “numerous inquiries” about the incident “along with our commitment to openness and transparency.”
In a 12-minute video, officers are heard telling 52-year-old Mary Brown that they had warned her previously about panhandling.
“I’m not going to jail!” Brown screamed.
“Oh, you going to jail,” one of the officers responded before laughing.
For several minutes, Brown argued with the officers, telling them she had not done anything wrong. Finally, the officers appeared to grab the handles of her wheelchair, roll her to the police car and tell her to get in. When she refused, one of the officers told her that she may face an additional charge for resisting arrest.
After more screaming, Brown can be heard warning the officers that they will wind up “in the newspaper for handling me rough.”
Then the officers started to handcuff her.
“Stop hurting me!” she shrieked over and over as she was arrested.
“You gonna hit me?” an officer asked her.
“I think that’s what she was trying to do,” the other officer replied.
That was the moment a bystander began recording. That video, along with the body-camera footage, showed a chaotic scene unfold.
The officers handcuffed Brown and, when they released their grip, she appeared to fall.
“You see what you did?” she told them.
“You did it. What the hell is — oh Lord, man,” an officer said in the police video.
The officers discussed whether they had gloves as Brown asked to be helped up.
“I’m gonna have both of y’all in trouble,” she said.
“No, you’re not,” an officer responded.
“You slammed me down on this ground,” she said.
“No, you did,” an officer replied.
“No, you did!” she fired back.
The two police officers left Brown rolling on the pavement outside a convenience store during her arrest.
As patrons left the store, she called out to them: “Would y’all get me some help please? They’re hurting me. They’re hurting me.”
“Y’all are hurting me!” she again told the officers.
In a statement, Police Director Juan J. Perez said that he directed his department “to contact organizations for disabled persons, to ensure our officers are utilizing current best practices when dealing with individuals requiring special assistance.”
Perez called Brown’s arrest “appropriate.” But, he added: “It’s important that we continue to work with our community and social service agencies in identifying alternatives to arrest that can provide meaningful assistance to those in need while addressing the quality- of-life concerns of our residents and businesses.”
In an earlier statement, Miami-Dade police officials said their officers needed “additional resources to aid them in facilitating the transport of disabled individuals, so that situations such as these are handled in a more amicable manner in the future.”
Brown told WSVN that she has diabetes and had to have her legs amputated from the knees down due to the disease.
The officers responded to a complaint Saturday about a woman harassing customers at the gas station, according to a police report. Just days earlier, officers had warned Brown to stop begging at that location, police said.
When officers arrived at the scene Saturday, they saw Brown “panhandling and approaching customers at the gas station,” according to the police report.
When Brown was told she was under arrest, she became “uncooperative,” police said.
“Just because I don’t have legs to move about like everybody else, I still was in my chair, and I deserved some respect,” she later told WSVN.
Instead, she said, the officers let her lie on the asphalt while they processed her arrest.
“I asked for help, help, help, over and over again,” she told the station. “No one came.”
Eventually, Brown was transported by ambulance to the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center in Miami.
WSVN reported that she was released from jail the next morning.
Jay King, the witness who reportedly shot the cellphone video, told WSVN that police officers should not have left Brown on the ground.
“It doesn’t have to go that far to where you can’t at least pick her up off the floor,” he told the station. “No matter what she did, it wasn’t that bad.”