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Cellphone video shows Miami-Dade police officer striking suspect in face

Jacksonville Gaston spit in officer's face before getting punched, police say

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Miami-Dade police told Local 10 News they are reviewing cellphone video that shows an officer striking a man in the face.

Cellphone video captured by neighbors Wednesday shows the moment Miami-Dade police officers and other assisting agencies responded to a southwest Miami-Dade street near Miami Executive Airport.  

The video shows an officer striking a man in the face. The man, identified as Jacksonville Gaston, 26, appears to be in handcuffs and in the process of being taken into custody. 

Gaston is seen with his back against an open patrol car door when he begins to yell obscenities at the officers. 

***WARNING: Multiple expletives used throughout raw footage of arrest.

The taunting is then followed by one officer hitting Gaston in the head and grabbing him by the throat.  

A witness told Local 10 New that while Gaston didn't appear to be cooperating, the force used was excessive.

"The guy was cursing, calling the guy all kinds of names that you can't say on TV.  The cop, to me, lost his cool," Geoffrey Nicholas said.

An arrest report obtained Thursday states that officers initially encountered Gaston after spotting him driving a car in the area of Southwest 144th Street and 158th Place with a woman hanging out of the passenger side with the door open.

Police said Gaston refused to stop the vehicle as a police officer attempted to conduct a traffic stop and ran a stop sign at the intersection of Southwest 144th Street and 158th Court. 

According to the arrest report, Gaston eventually stopped a short time later and walked away from the vehicle.

Police said an officer ordered Gaston to stop walking and speak with him, but Gaston told the officer the encounter was consensual and he was not obligated to stop.

Police said the officer then spoke with the woman, who was uncooperative and asked for her car keys, which Gaston had.   

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According to the arrest report, Gaston walked back to the passenger side of the vehicle and put his hands in his pocket.

Police said an officer told Gaston to remove his hands from his pockets, but he refused.

The officer then grabbed Gaston's arm to take him into custody, but Gaston tensed up his arms, the arrest report stated.

Police said three officers struggled to take Gaston into custody and all of them fell to the ground.

Authorities said Gaston kicked and tried to punch the officers during the struggle and poked one of the officers in the eye, causing his contact lens to fall out.

Gaston also spit upward during the struggle, the arrest report stated.

According to the report, Gaston continued to tense up as officers were trying to place him in the back seat of a patrol car.

Police said he then spit in one officer's face before the officer struck him several times in the face. 

The officer was identified only as H. Rodriguez in the report. 

"He wasn't complying to the police," Nicholas said. "Then they handcuffed him, brought him to the car and when he was at the car, that's when I see the guy keep on punching him while he was handcuffed." 

Authorities said Gaston complained of shortness of breath after being punched, so he was evaluated and treated at the scene.

Police said Gaston was then instructed to move farther into the back seat so the officers could close the door, but Gaston continued to spit at Rodriguez -- the spit this time landing on the officer's name tag. 

Rodriguez then struck Gaston a few more times as Gaston continued spitting in his face, the report stated. 

"It looks a bit excessive to me," Nicholas said. "He was hot-headed, so he didn't get a minute to calm down and the thing escalated."

Miami-Dade police Director Juan J. Perez said in a statement that the department is investigating the incident. 

"The incident, in its entirety, is currently under internal investigation to ensure that the officers' actions were in accordance with established policies and procedures, and consistent with the Miami-Dade Police Department's deeply held core values of integrity, respect, service and fairness," Perez said. 

Gaston faces charges of battery on a police officer, fleeing and eluding police, resisting an officer with violence and reckless driving. 


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