MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Sgt. Jose Perez is the Miami Beach police officer seen kicking a man in the head at least three times on a surveillance video from the Royal Palm Hotel released by the state attorney Monday — even though the man on the ground was handcuffed and fully complying, investigators say.
Perez had just been promoted to the rank of sergeant earlier this year.
Another one of the five officers facing battery charges after the July 26 incident, Kevin Perez, was involved in a deadly police-involved shooting a year and a half ago on Miami Beach. Kevin Perez (who is not related to Sgt. Jose Perez) fired at a knife-wielding suspect 14 times. One of the bullets hit a fellow officer, and he was ultimately cleared of any wrongdoing.
Officer Robert Sabatar is accused of tackling witness Khalid Vaughn last Monday at the Royal Palm Hotel as Vaughn tried to record the arrest on his cell phone.
Video shows Vaughn appearing to heed commands to back away when he’s violently shoved to the ground and punched repeatedly.
Officers David Rivas and Steven Serrano are the other two accused of excessive force.
All five officers have been relieved of duty as the investigation continues.
It’s likely Miami Beach’s new officer ordinance may come into play as a possible defense for the cops. City commissioners passed an ordinance in late June prohibiting civilians from getting too close to a police officer after a warning.
Miami Beach made it “unlawful for any person, after receiving a warning, to approach or remain within 20 feet of a law enforcement officer engaged in the lawful performance of any legal duty.”
Provoking, harassing or interfering with a cop’s actions makes it criminal, although the video released Monday does not show the witness Vaughn doing any of that behavior.
“This is by no means at all a reflection of the dedicated men and women of the Miami Beach Police Department,” Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements said Monday. “Moving forward, I can tell you that my staff and I promise you, as individuals and as an agency, that we will learn from this. And we will grow from this.”
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said it’s clear that more training is needed for officers.
“What we really know we need to do in training is really explain the duty to intervene, a duty to de-escalate, a duty to report,” she said. “They’re not just words. They have to be trained. There’s a cultural shift that needs to occur.”
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