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Detective cleared after shooting Fort Lauderdale protester with rubber bullet

Fort Lauderdale detective cleared of wrongdoing after woman shot in face with rubber bullet during Black Lives Matter protest
Fort Lauderdale detective cleared of wrongdoing after woman shot in face with rubber bullet during Black Lives Matter protest

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Fort Lauderdale Police Detective Eliezer Ramos has been exonerated, nearly a year after he shot a woman in the face with a rubber bullet during a Black Lives Matter protest.

Fort Lauderdale Interim Police Chief Patrick Lynn held a news conference Thursday afternoon, saying it was not the detective’s intent to harm LaToya Ratlieff during the May 31 protest.

“The internal affairs investigation determined that it was not Detective Ramos’ intent to strike Miss Ratlieff. Detective Ramos’ actions warranted an internal review. Based on that and the external expert’s review of the incident, Detective Ramos is exonerated,” Lynn said in front of Fort Lauderdale City Hall.

In June, Ratlieff, of Delray Beach, addressed the House Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. She spoke for about five minutes about the incident.

Before she spoke, video was played showing the intense moments when the detective shot Ratlieff in the face with a rubber bullet.

At the time, Ratlieff said she still had little to no vision in her right eye. She said she had yet to receive an apology from the detective who shot her, the department or the city.

Since the May 31 incident Ramos has said that Ratlieff was not the intended target of the rubber bullet. It was aimed at shooting someone that was behind her that was throwing gas canisters at police.

On Thursday, Lynn extended an apology to Ratlieff. “On behalf of the men and women of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, I want to express my sincerest apologies for the experience that you have had with our police department,” Lynn said.

Almost immediately following the press conference in response to the detective’s exoneration Thursday, Ratlieff’s legal team addressed the findings. Michael Davis, Ratlieff’s attorney, said that a real investigation should have been conducted to find out what happened on that day.

“Detective Ramos was not firing to protect his life, he was not firing to protect the lives of his officers, and he was not firing to protect the lives of anyone else or any property. The use of deadly force under this circumstance was inappropriate and unlawful and we wish the investigation would have explored that issue,” Davis said.

Davis said that Ratlieff will return to the front of city hall Friday at 9:30 a.m. with other leaders from throughout Broward County. Her attorney said what she has been seeking all along are opportunities to work with city officials and the Fort Lauderdale Police Department to address these types of incidents in the hopes of creating change. Ratlieff’s attorney said that if those demands cannot be met then a lawsuit will be considered.

Meanwhile, Lynn confirmed that another officer who was captured on cellphone video that same day pushing a 19-year-old woman who was kneeling on the ground remains on administrative leave without pay.

The video went viral and the Broward State Attorney’s Office forwarded the case to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement before formally charging the officer with battery.

The battery charge is a first-degree misdemeanor, which carries a maximum punishment of up to one year in jail.

Steven Pohorence was suspended last year by then-Police Chief Rick Magilone after a public records request brought to light body-worn footage showing the officer’s possible use of excessive force related to other incidents.

In one of the incidents, Pohorence is accused of delivering several knee strikes while trying to subdue a man who had refused to get off a bus on April 18.

Records show Pohorence has had 70 incidents under investigation by Internal Affairs, and 36 of the incidents were traffic stops for stolen cars or tags. Pohorence pointed his weapon at the drivers every time, according to the records, and in 14 of the cases, he used physical strength or a Taser to subdue the suspect.

About the Authors:

Alex Finnie joined the Local 10 News team in May 2018. South Florida is home! She was raised in Miami and attended the Cushman School and New World School of the Arts for high school.

Amanda Batchelor is the managing editor for Local10.com.