A Miami-area police officer, Lester Brown, has been charged with felony battery and official misconduct after a surveillance video revealed him pushing an inmate — a migrant worker named Jose Garcia — head first into a wall and injuring him.
Garcia was arrested Dec. 1 and brought to the Homestead Police Department, charged with disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest without violence, both misdemeanors. He was not convicted of the charges against him Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said in a news conference that she believed the charges were dropped, but that she could not confirm.
The surveillance video shows the arresting officers leading a handcuffed Garcia into a booking room, where Brown takes over. Seconds later, he pushes Garcia with two hands into a concrete wall where he hits his head and falls to the ground as blood trickles down from his face onto his torso.
The laceration required surgical glue to close. Because Garcia is a migrant worker, it took authorities several months to find him and begin investigating.
Brown, who is white, allegedly lied about pushing Garcia, saying in the incident report that he “heard a commotion” as the arresting officers led Garcia into the station and that Garcia was “combative” when he entered the booking room. Brown then said Garcia went to attack him, and when he pushed up against him, fell into the wall. The surveillance video disproves this account.
Rundle said the conference that there was “no question” that Brown caused Garcia’s injury.
“We will not stand for such behavior,” Rundle said. “Today, we are charging Homestead Police Officer Lester Brown with felony battery, which is a third-degree felony, and official misconduct, which is also a third-degree felony.”
Brown’s attorney, C. Michael Cornely told the Miami Herald that he believed the case was “overcharged” and that Brown’s actions were justified due to Garcia’s conduct.
Brown is a reserve officer who was acting as a receiving correction officer and has since been relieved of duty without pay pending termination, Homestead Police Chief Alexander Rolle Jr. told reporters.
ABC News also reported that when asked if Brown’s conduct had been problematic in the past, he said “yes,” but did not elaborate on what those incidents were.
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Rolle condemned Brown’s actions to reporters, calling them abhorrent and saying they discredited all of the other work the Homestead police had done to foster a positive relationship with the community.
“I’ve been here 21 years as police chief, and we have our integrity with our police department, and we’re not gonna stand for any abuse of our citizens in our community,” he said.
However, the Miami Herald reports multiple cases of police misconduct and excessive use of force by Miami-Dade officers.
In May, officer Alejandro Giraldo was charged with tackling a woman who was a victim of assault. He’s now awaiting trial.
Other incidents from the department include
- Manuel Regueiro, awaiting trial, accused of slapping a handcuffed suspect
- Officer Gustavo de los Rios, awaiting trial, accused of kicking a handcuffed teen suspect
- Mario Figueroa, acquitted, accused of kicking a handcuffed suspect
- Lester Bohnenblust, sentenced to 45 days in jail, assaulted a nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital
Brown was jailed Aug. 7, briefly released after posting a $10,000 bond.