MIAMI - Miami-Dade mayor, Carlos Gimenez issued an apology Thursday to an 82-year old woman who was physically removed from a county transit train.
Emma Anderson was singing a spiritual hymn and beating a bottle with beads in her seat during a February 20th ride, when a security guard approached her and told her she was being disruptive.
When the elderly woman refused to stop, the guard grabbed her belongings in an attempt to force the woman to leave. However, Emma clung to her bag tightly but was ultimately pulled to the exit doors of the train. The scene was recorded by another passenger's cell phone.
"Tugging and pulling and dragging her off of one of our train cars. I think that is something we should not tolerate," said Miami-Dade commissioner Audrey Edmonson.
The most disturbing part of the video is when the private security guard, contracted by the county, appears to yank the bag with Emma in tow.
"He snatched so hard until I fell. I fell backwards," Emma told Local 10's Terrell Forney.
Emma's family believes the fall left the elderly woman with shoulder and hip injuries. The guard on the video appeared to be younger, taller and weigh more than the frail elderly woman.
"I've sent a letter to the mayor requesting a full investigation," said Miami-Dade commissioner Audrey Edmonson.
Edmonson oversees the district where Emma lives and the Brownsville Metrorail station where the woman begins and ends her journeys.
"It's discrimination pure and simple", said Anthony Verdugo of the Christian Family Coalition.
Verdugo believes the incident violated the woman's religious and constitutional rights of free speech.
"We believe that this lady's basic human rights were violated in an atrocious manner and this is an injustice that must be corrected and it must be corrected now", said Verdugo.
Miami-Dade county is now scrutinizing its contract with the private security company at the center of the debate. The guard is employed by '50 State Security' and the company's contract is set expire later this year.
However, it's too early to tell if commissioners plan to renew with the company.
Commissioner Edmonson does plan to make sure the heavy handed security guard seen on the video is barred from any duties at county owned facility.
"I can't say fired because this is a private company," said Edmonson. "But I do know we need to look into the history of this company with the county as well as this gentleman."
Edmonson suggests sensitivity training which is required for all Miami-Dade employees but not for private companies that do business with the county.
"I didn't see not one iota of sensitivity there. The guard didn't show anything to me and I just didn't like-- the way in which he handled it. It could've been handled in a much better way," said Edmonson.
Mayor Gimenez's statement on the matter reads as follows:
"We are sorry that this incident occurred and apologize to Mrs. Anderson. The situation should have been handled with more care and common sense. We have made it clear to all county employees and contractors that our patrons must be treated with dignity and respect. We are in the process of reviewing our policies and procedures to ensure special consideration is taken when dealing with the elderly and people with special needs."
The Anderson family has filed a police report and retained an attorney as they explore legal options.
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