A Miami-Dade County police officer has been relieved of duty after a video Wednesday (Jul. 1) showed him punching a woman in the face during an argument at Miami International Airport.
Bodycam video emerged Wednesday evening showing the violent encounter.
The video shows a masked officer speaking to a Black woman in a terminal when she becomes angry and starts taunting him, saying: “You acting like you white when you really Black … what you want to do?”
After the woman steps to the officer and gets in his face, the officer delivers a single punch to hers, knocking her several steps backward.
“She headbutted me,” the cop says as the other officers rush in to handcuff the woman.
— Billy Corben (@BillyCorben) July 2, 2020
According to the Miami Herald, the fired cop has been identified by multiple sources as Antonio Clemente Rodriguez, who is Black and of Puerto Rican heritage. The woman’s identity and whatever charges she’s facing weren’t immediately known.
One law enforcement source said the woman was complaining loudly about a missed or delayed flight, and a ticket agent called police.
When Rodriguez showed up, he tried to calm the woman down, but the confrontation escalated after she started yelling at him.
The footage started circulating Wednesday among police officers and was made public by documentary film director and activist Billy Corben via Twitter.
The president of the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association said the woman was “clearly” the aggressor in the situation, and Rodriguez simply hit her with an “open-hand” slap,” which is sometimes referred to as a “diversionary strike.
“Clearly she was the aggressor. She was being asked to leave. She’s being belligerent and she pushes her face right into his face,” PBA President Steadman Stahl told the Miami Herald.
County officials, however, condemned the officer’s actions.
“I am shocked and angered by a body cam video that I just saw involving one of our officers,” Miami-Dade police Director Alfredo Ramirez said in a statement on Twitter.
“I’ve immediately initiated an investigation and ordered that the involved officers be relieved of duty.”
Ramirez’ statement continued: “Actions such as these undermine the hard work that we have invested in our community and causes my heart to break for our community and for the vast majority of our officers who dedicate their lives to serving our County.
“This will not stand, and I assure our community that any officer acting in this vain will be held to account.”
Ramirez said he also asked Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to participate in the investigation.
our community and causes my heart to break for our community and for the vast majority of our officers who dedicate their lives to serving our County. This will not stand, and I assure our community that any officer acting in this vain will be held to account. (2 of 3)…
— Alfredo "Freddy" Ramirez III (@MDPD_Director) July 2, 2020
“This is appalling,” Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giminez added in his own Twitter statement.
“It’s excessive use of force and unnecessary. That’s NOT what our @MiamiDadePD are trained to do. @MDPD_Director Ramirez has ordered the officer relieved of duty & investigation is underway. This is why I instituted body cameras & MDPD is reviewing all footage.”
This is appalling. It’s excessive use of force and unnecessary. That’s NOT what our @MiamiDadePD are trained to do. @MDPD_Director Ramirez has ordered the officer relieved of duty & investigation is underway. This is why I instituted body cameras & MDPD is reviewing all footage. https://t.co/KHDsEohBym
— Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez (@MayorGimenez) July 2, 2020
The video comes as interactions between cops and the public have been under a microscope following the May 25th death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police officers. Floyd’s death has also sparked protests across the country against police brutality.
In South Florida, two cops have been arrested for battery since the protests started.
Former Miami Gardens police officer Jody Martel was charged with battery last week after he put his knee on a pregnant Black woman’s neck and shot her twice with a Taser in a January incident.
And on Tuesday (Jun. 30), Fort Lauderdale Officer Steven Pohorence was hit with a battery charge for pushing a kneeling woman to the ground during a protest.