FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A former Fort Lauderdale police officer accused of slapping a homeless man last year was found not guilty of three misdemeanor charges, including two counts of battery and one count of falsifying records Wednesday.
Victor Ramirez was relived to hear that verdict in his favor.
Earlier in the day, Ramirez had re-enacted the incident for the court during a trial Wednesday, saying that he was trying to protect his gun and the homeless man, Bruce Laclair, wasn't listening to his orders to leave the bus terminal.
"I wanted him to stop," Ramirez said. "This is the second time he showed aggression towards me. He just tried to turn on me. I had to take action."
In cellphone video from Feb. 22, a man identified as Laclair walks by the person who caught the entire incident on camera. The video shows Ramirez close behind. Seconds later, Ramirez shoves Laclair to the ground.
"Relax," Ramirez said. "I'm telling you right now what is going to happen -- you're not supposed to go pee here."
The two men go back and forth a few times before Ramirez is seen trying to grab Laclair's arm and slapping him.
"I'm not (expletive) around with you," Ramirez is heard saying. "Don't (expletive) touch me. Don't (expletive) touch me."
Ramirez then turns Laclair around and arrests him.
A witness told Local 10 News that the incident started after Ramirez told Laclair to leave the bus terminal.
Ramirez claims he was just doing his job and said that Laclair was drunk.
"He's being belligerent. He's not listening to me," Ramirez said.
Prosecutors maintain that there is no evidence that Laclair was drunk when he fell to the ground after being struck by Ramirez.
Laclair didn't have much to say after the verdict.
"I'm a little surprised, but shocked? No," he said.
Ramirez is no longer with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.
"It's been a long, interesting journey, and I'm glad it's over," Laclair said.
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