HOMESTEAD, Fla. – A Homestead police officer who was arrested this week on accusations that he pushed an inmate head-first into a concrete wall was fired by Police Chief Alexander Rolle Jr. in 2016 for a similar incident.
In that case, an arbitrator ruled that Officer Lester Brown violated several departmental rules but should only serve an eight-month suspension without pay or benefits.
"In addition, the nature of the grievant's offense indicates that he could benefit from some type of counseling related to his conduct," the arbitrator noted. "It was noted by the arbitrator that the grievant showed no remorse for his conduct. When asked during the Internal Affairs investigation if he would react the same if he was put in the same situation, he replied in the affirmative."
The arbitrator ordered Brown to complete a counseling program chosen by the police chief.
According to Homestead police, the 2016 incident involved a handcuffed female inmate, identified as Karen Lavon Worthen, then 30, whom Brown was escorting into the booking room.
Surveillance video released Thursday shows Brown shoving the woman into the room and telling her: "Don't do it. Don't do it. I'll knock you the f*** out."
He is then seen pushing the woman down on a bench by her neck and telling her to "knock it off" before slapping her in the face, authorities said.
According to her arrest report, Worthen had been arrested on charges of battery, resisting an officer and assaulting an officer.
The arrest report stated that the battery charge involved an incident between Worthen and her mother. Worthen was also accused of trying to punch an officer, identified only as Officer Leal, while being placed inside a holding cell.
"All I remember him doing is just standing behind me, like, shoving me and hitting me against the wall and roughing me up," Worthen said.
Local 10 News showed Worthen the surveillance video, but Worthen said the video only captured part of the incident.
"You are saying in another room, he roughed you up?" Local 10 News' Roy Ramos asked Worthen.
"Mmm hmm," Worthen said.
Homestead police forwarded the case involving Brown to the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office, which declined to file charges against the officer and requested that the Police Department handle the case administratively.
"I was told that there wasn't enough evidence for him to be fired, and he was hired back," Worthen said.
But Brown wasn't let off the hook this week, as he was charged with felony battery and official misconduct in connection with another incident from Dec. 1, 2018.
Surveillance video released Wednesday shows Brown slamming an inmate head-first into a concrete wall in the booking room of the facility. The inmate, identified as Jose Garcia Alvarado, falls to the floor as blood pours from his head.
The inmate was then taken to a hospital, where surgical glue was used to close the gash on his head, the state attorney said.
According to State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Brown lied in his written report about the incident, claiming that he "heard a commotion" and found Garcia Alvarado trying to attack other officers.
Brown claimed he grabbed the inmate's forearms to help guide him, but Garcia Alvarado pushed back on him in an attempt to attack the officers and then fell forward, hitting his head on the wall, Fernandez Rundle said.
"We believe that the video evidence does not support Officer Brown's written account that Garcia attempted to attack the officers," the state attorney said. "We believe, as do the police officers and the police chief, that the video evidence does not support the Garcia struggle with Officer Lester Brown by pushing on him or that Garcia was injured by falling forward into the wall. There's no question that Officer Brown's initial actions resulted in the injury of Mr. Garcia."
Brown has been relieved of duty once again.
"This particular case confirms our commitment to cooperate and work along with the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office in our effort to hold ourselves accountable," Rolle said in a statement.
As for what Worthen had to say about the charges Brown is now facing, Worthen said, "I prayed about it and forgot about it, and like I said, God sits high and looks low."