Miami police officer relieved of duty after questionable video surfaces

Suspect shown in video was driving recklessly in stolen car, police say

MIAMI – Hours after a video appearing to show a Miami police officer kicking a suspect in the head during an arrest Thursday went viral on social media, the State Attorney's Office started an investigation and the department relieved the officer of duty. 

A resident filmed and published the video on Facebook at the Culmer Place Apartments, 610 NW 10 St., near Reeves Park in Overtown. The Miami Police Department identified the man arrested as David Vladim Suazo and the officer who attempts to kick him as Officer Mario Figueroa, a two-year veteran who was wearing a body-worn camera. 

According to the arrest report the 31-year-old Overtown resident was in a 2000 blue Jeep Cherokee that was reported stolen in Broward County when officers ordered him to stop, and he sped away instead. Officers said Suazo crashed into a concrete wall at 835 NW 7 Ave., and took off running. 

When an officer first caught up to him, he took a "fighting stance" and shouted an expletive, according to the arrest report. The officer deployed his Taser, but officers said "it was ineffective" and Suazo continued to run. When police officers caught up to him again, a witness began to film. 

"He was already in handcuffs. He was not resisting or anything," the person who shot the video told Todd Tongen. "He was already in handcuffs and the other one came running out of nowhere and kicked him like a football and basically jumped on him."

The arrest report didn't mention the kick. It did say that "while placing the defendant into the back of the police vehicle, the defendant started to tense up his body to avoid being placed in the vehicle." The measures officers took to get him inside the vehicle weren't in the report either.

Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina released a statement saying his department received the video, which he said "depicts a clear violation of policy." The department suspended the officer with pay and contacted the State Attorney's Office. 

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle released a statement saying she was "shocked and appalled" after watching the officer's behavior on video and opened an investigation. She assigned the case to Assistant State Attorney Johnette Hardiman, of the public corruption unit. 

The Facebook poster hopes the spotlight on the officer is enough to remove him from the force permanently.

"I hope nobody else hires him because you can't do stuff like that," she said. "That is against your job duties ... you are not here to hurt people you are here to protect people. If he did something wrong, I understand. He is a criminal, he should go to jail, I understand. But you don't have to hurt him."

The 31-year-old Overtown resident, who police officers say is a habitual traffic offender, is accused of fleeing and eluding a police officer, resisting arrest, reckless driving, leaving the scene of an accident, driving with a suspended license and vehicle grand theft.

About the Authors:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.