Orlando police chief: No reason to suspend officers who kicked man
The video shows a police officer repeatedly winding up and kicking a man sitting on the curb, and while Orlando’s police chief says the officers involved remain on duty, attorneys for the man who got kicked say the video is all they need to demand the officers’ arrest.
“If it were you or I that kicked someone and used a weapon against them while they were sitting passively, we would be arrested. That doesn’t happen to the police,” attorney Natalie Jackson said during a Wednesday news conference. “I don’t have to tell citizens what they see. It’s there. It is the police who are asking us not to believe what we see on the tape.”
Her client, Noel Carter, a 30-year-old Miami-area banker, wore a suit and a bandage over his right temple as he told reporters the police first approached him as he was engaged in a “disagreement” with a woman he had known for a long time. The incident did not warrant police intervention, he said, denying allegations he was intoxicated.
Carter thanked the woman who recorded the police as they kicked him and dubbed the footage “an accurate representation of the abuses inflicted on me … while I was seated with my hands raised on the curb.” Though the video shows an officer kicking Carter in the arm, he was kicked in the head before the woman started filming, he added.
First, muscle, pepper spray and a baton…
The June 4 incident began when a staff member at a club where Officers David Cruz and Charles Mays were moonlighting told them about an altercation down the street, according to Cruz’s statement from the arrest affidavit.
Cruz saw Noel Carter “attempting to grab and hold” a Hispanic woman as she tried to walk away from him, he wrote. The woman was crying, and Cruz asked Carter to stand on the corner while he interviewed the woman, the statement said.
The woman told Cruz that Carter was intoxicated, the report said, and they were arguing because they had just broken up after dating for two years and Carter did not want her to leave.
When Cruz finished interviewing the woman, he walked over to talk to Carter, who told Cruz he was going to speak to her, Cruz wrote. The officer told Carter he couldn’t speak to her, to which Carter replied, “You’re not going to stop me,” according to Cruz’s report.
Cruz tried to handcuff Carter, who resisted, Cruz said. At that point, Mays pepper-sprayed Carter, who walked off unfazed, according to the report. The officers tried more physical force to subdue him and Cruz deployed his Taser three times, “but it did not have the desired effect,” Cruz wrote.
“Carter turned towards me and attempted to grab my Taser,” Cruz’s statement said, adding that the officer then hit Carter with a 2- to 3-second burst of pepper spray before attempting to pull him to the ground.
Carter broke free and ran about 100 yards before sitting on the curb. His eyes stinging from the pepper spray, Cruz ordered Carter to put his hands behind his back, an order that Cruz claims Carter refused, instead lunging at the officers. Cruz then hit him five times in the arm with his baton, he wrote.
This, too, failed to subdue Carter, according to the officer. Fearing Carter might “regain power and get back up” Cruz “attempted to restrain him using my legs and arms,” he wrote. Carter broke free, tried to stand up, then sat back down, causing Cruz to scrape his elbow and knee on the concrete, the statement said.
Taser deployed multiple times
“I decided to deliver foot strikes using the top of my foot, in order to maintain distance and in hopes Carter would comply. I stood up and began delivering several kicks with my right foot to Carter’s right arm in between his elbow and shoulder while telling him, `Stop resisting,’ ” Cruz alleged.
Mays then deployed his Taser again and Carter rolled onto his stomach and placed his hands behind his back, according to the officer.
There are at least three videos of the incident, none of which show the entire altercation. The aforementioned video begins with Cruz kicking Carter.
Another witness’s video shows an officer deploying a Taser and Carter running in the opposite direction, disappearing behind a curtain as the sound of the Taser is heard a second time.
A third video, which the Orlando Sentinel bills as surveillance footage, shows Carter trotting across the street and sitting down as the officers give chase. The video is grainy — and it doesn’t help that it’s nighttime, about 10 p.m. — but the officers appear to approach him on the curb, kick him and wrestle with him before one of the officers hits him with a baton and delivers another series of kicks.
“They … literally beat me like a dog in the street,” Carter told CNN’s “New Day” on Thursday.
John Mina, who celebrated his first anniversary as Orlando police chief last month, told reporters he has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct an investigation into the incident.
At first glance, he said he has no indication that either officer should be suspended or prohibited from working off-duty security jobs. The video of Cruz kicking Carter doesn’t tell the whole story, the chief said, and it doesn’t demonstrate that Carter was intoxicated, uncooperative, resisting arrest and attempting to flee at numerous points.
Mina took issue with Carter’s statement that police intervention was unnecessary, saying the Orlando Police Department takes potential domestic or dating violence situations seriously.
“I have no reason to take them off the street,” Mina said of Cruz and Mays, adding that neither officer has a discipline history.
Pressed on whether it’s OK for one of his officers to kick a man who’s sitting down, Mina said, “We are fully committed to thoroughly investigating the entire incident.”
‘That was not OK’
The woman who took one of the videos told CNN affiliate WKMG that she doesn’t need to know what happened before she began recording it.
“That right there was unacceptable,” she said, “and for me, recording that, I don’t have to see what happened. That was not OK.”
Carter’s attorney concurred: “The police department is not trained to beat, punch, kick, Tase people who are in a submissive position. There’s nowhere in the training matrix that you will ever see that.”
The police reports that have been released to the public, she said, “are clearly erroneous and false.” Carter told a reporter that, contrary to police allegations, he was “not in any way” intoxicated.
Carter traveled to Orlando to attend a concert with a woman, who invited him to the show and bought him a ticket, his lawyers said. A disagreement arose and the two were discussing it when the police approached, they said. The woman did not summon police, according to the attorneys.
“When I was pushed and essentially when I was abused by these officers, I was completely taken aback and surprised by the situation,” Carter said. “We were having a disagreement. We were having a simple discussion between two individuals in a public setting.”
When police became aggressive, the lawyers claim, Carter attempted to get away, at one point fleeing before thinking better of it and sitting on the curb.
As to Mina’s claim that people should consider what precipitated the police kicking Carter before arriving at a conclusion, attorney Jackson begged to differ.
“You do not have to look at the totality to see the abuse that is done and the unlawful use of force by these officers,” she said.
Carter said he hopes Cruz and Mays will be charged with battery and aggravated battery with a weapon.
By Eliott C. McLaughlin
CNN’s John Couwels contributed to this report.