Homeless man slapped by cop seeks $200,000 from city

Officer Victor Ramirez was acquitted of battery in case

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A homeless man who was slapped by a Fort Lauderdale police officer in a video that went viral has filed a notice of intent to sue the city for excessive force and false arrest.

Bruce LeClair was attempting to use the public restroom at the Fort Lauderdale central bus terminal when he was pushed down and slapped by Officer Victor Ramirez.

LeClair is seeking $200,000 in damages, the maximum that can be obtained from a municipal government in such a case.

Ramirez was acquitted of criminal charges of battery and filing a false report at trial earlier this month.

"Slapping him was far excessive," LeClair’s attorney, Gary Kollin, said.

At trial, Ramirez testified that LeClair raised his arms prior to the push and swatted at him prior to the slap, which was enough to convince the jury to acquit. A civil case has a lower standard of proof than the criminal "beyond a reasonable doubt." 

"The burden of proof is the greater weight of the evidence," Kollin said.

In his notice letter to the city, Kollin requested that the city compensate LeClair $200,000 in lieu of the filing of a civil suit, noting that he also intends to sue Ramirez personally and seek attorney’s fees if a civil case goes forward.

Mayor Jack Seiler said he had not yet seen the notice letter. His city has six months to respond before LeClair can file suit. Kollin said his client is seeking more than money.

"He wants to ensure that people, especially the homeless, are never abused again," he said. "And the only way that he can do that, at this point, is to seek money damages against the city of Fort Lauderdale so the city will recognize its responsibility."

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