Homestead police officer accused of pushing inmate head-first into concrete wall

Officer Lester Brown charged with felony battery, official misconduct

By Amy Viteri - Investigative Reporter, Sanela Sabovic - Reporter, Amanda Batchelor - Senior Digital Editor

HOMESTEAD, Fla. - A Homestead police officer surrendered to authorities Wednesday after being accused of pushing a handcuffed inmate into a wall, causing the man's head to bleed, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced at a news conference.

The Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office released surveillance footage of the incident from Dec. 1, 2018, at a Homestead substation. 

The video shows an officer, identified as Lester Brown, slamming the inmate head-first into a concrete wall in the booking room of the facility. The inmate, identified as Jose Garcia Alvarado, falls to the floor as blood pours from his head. 

The inmate was then taken to a hospital where surgical glue was used to close the gash on his head, the state attorney said. 

According to Fernandez Rundle, Brown lied in his written report about the incident, claiming that he "heard a commotion" and found Garcia Alvarado trying to attack other officers.

Brown claimed he grabbed the inmate's forearms to help guide him, but Garcia Alvarado pushed back on him in an attempt to attack the officers and then fell forward, hitting his head on the wall, Fernandez Rundle said. 

"We believe that the video evidence does not support Officer Brown's written account that Garcia attempted to attack the officers," the state attorney said. "We believe, as do the police officers and the police chief, that the video evidence does not support the Garcia struggle with Officer Lester Brown by pushing on him or that Garcia was injured by falling forward into the wall. There's no question that Officer Brown's initial actions resulted in the injury of Mr. Garcia."

Brown is charged with felony battery and official misconduct.

Authorities said Garcia Alvarado is an undocumented migrant worker who is homeless and had been arrested for disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest without violence after he had broken the window of a home. 

Homestead Police Chief Alexander Rolle Jr. condemned his officer's actions, both at the news conference and in a statement sent earlier in the day. 

"The arrest of Lester Brown is very disappointing, and overshadows the work of the dedicated men and women of the Homestead Police Department, who serve and protect our community every day," Rolle said in his statement. "Police officers have a legal responsibility to abide by all laws and Lester Brown's arrest demonstrates how seriously our police department takes that obligation."

Brown is a reserve police officer who was acting in the capacity of a corrections officer during the incident, authorities said.

He has been employed by the Homestead Police Department since November 2007.

"Upon learning of the incident involving Corrections Officer Brown, he was immediately relieved of duty, and a full investigation was ordered," Rolle said. "After reviewing pertinent evidence, our investigators contacted the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office for their review. This particular case confirms our commitment to cooperate and work along with the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office in our effort to hold ourselves accountable."

Brown's arrest comes about two weeks after former Miami police Officer Lester Bohnenblust, 51, was sentenced to 45 days in jail for slamming a nurse to the floor at Jackson Memorial Hospital.

Several other South Florida police officers are also facing charges after videos surfaced of handcuffed suspects being assaulted. 

In one case, Miami-Dade police Officer Alejandro Giraldo is facing charges of official misconduct and battery after he was accused of grabbing a woman -- who had called authorities to report a crime -- by the neck and forcing her to the ground.

Former Miami police Officer Mario Figueroa went on trial earlier this year for allegedly trying to kick a handcuffed suspect but the trial ended before going to the jury.

In that case, 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 Figueroa. 

According to court documents, Brown filed a civil lawsuit two years ago against the Homestead Police Department claiming disability discrimination. In those documents, his attorneys said he applied to be a full-time patrol officer multiple times, but had been rejected every time because he is missing two fingers on his left hand. 

The lawsuit alleged others were hired ahead of him without any prior experience.

Brown was released from jail Wednesday after posting $10,000 bail.

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