FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A Fort Lauderdale police officer seen threatening and slapping a sitting homeless man at the central bus terminal in a video that has been seen across the country is now facing criminal charges.
The Broward County state attorney's office filed three misdemeanor charges against Officer Victor Ramirez, 34, including two counts of battery and one count of falsifying records, Thursday.
On Monday morning, Ramirez's attorney was given a summons for his client to appear in court May 18.
In the cellphone video from Feb. 22, a man identified as Bruce Laclair, 58, walks by the person who caught the entire incident on camera. The video shows Ramirez close behind. Seconds later, Ramirez shoves Laclair to the ground.
"Relax," Ramirez said. "I'm telling you right now what is going to happen -- you're not supposed to go pee here."
The two men go back and forth a few times before Ramirez is seen trying to grab Laclair's arm and slapping him.
"I'm not (expletive) around with you," Ramirez is heard saying. "Don't (expletive) touch me. Don't (expletive) touch me."
Ramirez then turns Laclair around and arrests him.
A witness told Local 10 News that the incident started after Ramirez told Laclair to leave the bus terminal.
Words were exchanged, and Laclair said he was going to use the bathroom first.
"The guy didn't raise his hand to the officer at all," Gerald Schorder said. "The officer just knocked him down with his hands. The guy was defenseless."
Signs posted around the bus terminal off Broward Boulevard and Andrews Avenue warn people about loitering. Laclair was arrested on a trespassing charge.
Ramirez's attorney, Michael Dutko, told Local 10 News that the video only shows half of the story, stating that Laclair had tried to grab the officer twice before the witness began recording the altercation.
The Fort Lauderdale Police Department said Ramirez has been relieved from duty without pay pending the outcome of the criminal investigation.
Mayor Jack Seiler urged the public to not judge the entire department based on a one-minute clip.
"Look around where you work. Look around where I work. Look around at all of our jobs and tell me is there one percent of your work force that has maybe made a very poor decision or acted irresponsibly," Seiler said.
Dutko said his client will plead not guilty.
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