Former Miami police officer acquitted in kicking case before it ever went to jury

Broward judge refused to allow alleged victim to be transported to testify

MIAMI – A former Miami police officer who was caught on camera trying to kick, but missing, a handcuffed suspect has been acquitted of wrongdoing before his case even went to a jury. 

Miami-Dade County Judge Michael Barket said he had no choice but to end the trial because of a lack of evidence due to a Broward County judge's refusal to allow the alleged victim, David Suazo, to be transported to Miami-Dade court to testify against former Miami police Officer Mario Figueroa. 

Figueroa was not only fired for the May 3, 2018, incident but he was also charged with misdemeanor assault.

"It was an obvious violation of our policy," Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina said in May 2018.

Prosecutors asked Barket to postpone Figueroa's trial, describing in a memo how Broward County Judge Tim Bailey denied Suazo's transport.

Because Bailey's denial remained indefinite and uncertain, Barket ended the case with a judge's Order of Acquittal, and let Figueroa go.

"My client was denied his right to appear before the court and tell the court his side," Suazo's attorney, Rod Vereen, said. "Somebody fumbled the ball and, as a result, an officer got acquitted of conduct he shouldn't have gotten acquitted of."

Suazo is currently incarcerated in Broward in connection with a carjacking.

The incident involving Figueroa and Suazo occurred May 3, 2018, at the Culmer Place Apartments at 610 NW 10th St.

A resident filmed and published the video on Facebook.

According to an arrest report, Suazo was in a blue 2000 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 7th Ave. and took off running. 

When an officer first caught up to him, Suazo 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. 

The video shows an officer, identified as Figueroa, running into the camera's view and taking a kick at Suazo's head while the suspect was already facedown on the ground and motionless.

Suazo was taken to a hospital after complaining of chest pains and told Figueroa, "Missed trying to kick. Learn how to aim, my boy."

"If I wanted to kick you, you know I would have kicked you, right?" Figueroa replied.

The Miami Fraternal Order of Police stood by Figueroa during the ordeal, with its president saying shortly after the incident that Figueroa did not violate police policy because he never actually kicked the suspect and "simply gestured to make him comply."

About the Authors:

Glenna Milberg joined Local 10 News in September 1999 to report on South Florida's top stories and community issues. She also serves as co-host on Local 10's public affairs broadcast, "This Week in South Florida."

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