FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Fort Lauderdale police officer who was seen on video pushing a female protester May 31 is being charged with battery, Broward State Attorney Mike Satz announced Tuesday.
Officer Steven Pohorence, 29, is charged with battery for “intentionally touching or striking” the 19-year-old woman by “pushing [the victim] to the ground,” according to court records.
The video was first obtained by Local 10 News’ Jeff Weinsier from another protester. It shows Pohorence shoving a woman around the time when what had been a peaceful protest in Fort Lauderdale against racial inequality turned contentious outside a parking garage at SE 2nd Street and SE 1st Avenue near the Broward County Main Library.
Prosecutors filed the charging document in Broward County Court on Tuesday after an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Satz’s office said.
The battery charge is a first-degree misdemeanor, which carries a maximum punishment of up to one year in jail. Prosecutors say they decided to file a misdemeanor charge after reviewing the victim’s medical records to see if her injury fell under the legal requirements for a misdemeanor or felony.
Michael Dutko is the attorney representing Pohorence, and he said he wasn’t surprised with the charge due to the “current climate locally and nationally.”
“My concern, though, is for most people, their knowledge of this situation, and many people have strong opinions about this situation that tends to derive from a few snippets of video,” Dutko said.
The victim’s mother, Danielle Casey, reacted to the officer’s charge with a statement, saying “We are happy to see that justice is beginning to be served but a misdemeanor charge feels light. Like he is getting off easier than he should.”
A date has not yet been scheduled for Pohorence to appear in court.
The day after the incident, Pohorence was removed from duty with pay as the investigation was launched. As a result of state attorney’s decision to charge Pohorence, Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Magilone said Tuesday night that the officer is now on administrative leave without pay.
“At the conclusion of the process being led by the State Attorney’s Office, our Office of Internal Affairs will complete an administrative investigation to determine if any departmental policies were violated,” Maglione said in a statement.
Prosecutors say videos of other incidents of use of force by Pohorence remain under review. Magilone released two bodycam videos last week of incidents unrelated to the shoving of the protester.
“These videos are concerning his response to resistance and the general manner in which those incidents were handled,” Magilone said then.
Pohorence has been a member of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department since October 2016, and prior to that, he spent almost four years working for the Florida Highway Patrol.