Miami Beach, FL – A cell phone video of a Miami Beach police officer punching a suspect in a restaurant has gone viral (video below).
The incident began when Lowell Poitier Jr., a 35-year-old homeless man, started bothering the customers and staff at Pelican Hotel at 826 Ocean Drive on Dec. 3, the Miami Herald reported.
Both staff and customers called the police and reported that Poitier was irate and refusing to leave the restaurant.
When officers arrived on the scene at about 9 p.m., witnesses told them that Poitier was behaving in an erratic manner and had called two women “f--king gringas,” which is a reference to white, non-Hispanic women, the Miami Herald reported.
The police report said Poitier called the responding officers “crackers” and that he appeared to want to challenge the authority of Miami Beach Police Officer Adriel Dominguez.
A police bodycam video was released by another officer, and appeared to be a video of a bodycam filmed on a cell phone.
Miami Beach Police Officer Frederick Dominguez, no relation to Adriel, wasn’t at the scene on the night of the incident but claimed protected “whistleblower” status when he released the video that he claimed showed Poitier being sucker-punched by an officer unprovoked, according to the Miami Herald.
However, the video Frederick Dominguez released showed that Poitier was behaving aggressively toward Officer Adriel Dominguez on the night of the altercation.
The New York Post reported that the video showed Poitier making aggressive gestures to at least one officer before picking something up from a menu stand nearby.
Then the video showed Poitier approached Officer Adriel Dominguez and got up in his face, saying “What? What?”
The police report said that “upon grabbing his phone, [Poitier] approached Officer Dominguez in an aggressive manner. [Poitier] stated ‘what, what’ as he clenched his fists, took a fighting stance and leaned into Officer Dominguez’s face. Officer Dominguez in fear for his safety struck [Poitier] with a closed fist punch with his right hand, which made contact with [Poitier’s] left side facial area.”
Police officers are legally allowed to hit people if they reasonably believe that the person is about to attack them.
The video released by Frederick Dominguez showed that nothing in the description of the incident was contradicted by the bodycam footage. However, the local news media inexplicably reported that the description was inaccurate.
"The 62-second video, however, appears to contradict the police account. Poitier doesn’t appear to clench his fist or take a fighting stance when Adriel Dominguez pulls Poitier toward him with his left hand while cold-cocking him with his closed right fist," the Miami Herald Reported.
It's unclear why the newspaper believes that towering over somebody and leaning into them doesn't constitute "taking a fighting stance and leaning into Officer Dominguez’s face."
Poitier's right hand can also be seen making a fist before his hands go off camera.
The newspaper report also stated that the officer pulled the suspect toward him with his left fist to cold-cock him with a right fist. In reality, the video shows the officer using a defensive maneuver which would have prevented the suspect from striking out with his clenched fist.
Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police President Robert Jenkins told the Miami Herald that the union was completely behind Officer Adriel Dominguez.
“The video, along with the police officer’s body camera’s footage captured the dangerous confrontation with an agitated, angry and physically aggressive defendant,” Jenkins said. “There is no question Officer Dominguez was legally justified and fully entitled to protect himself.”
Officer Adriel Dominguez has been temporarily relieved of patrol duties while Internal Affairs investigates the incident and state prosecutors review the video, the New York Post reported.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber urged citizens to refrain from jumping to conclusions, the Miami Herald reported.
“I had the same gut reaction anyone would have,” Gelber said. “But we must allow for a thorough investigation. The officer has been put on desk duty pending review.”
Watch video of the altercation below: