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Circle of Brotherhood on 5 officers facing misdemeanor battery for violent arrests: ‘Charges are as weak as church water wine’

Miami Beach chief meets with Miami activists

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Members of Circle of Brotherhood, a Miami nonprofit that encourages Black men to engage in community activism, criticized Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and Miami Beach Police Chief Richard Clements on Wednesday for their response to three violent arrests at a hotel in South Beach.

Miami Beach police Sgt. Jose Perez, Officer Kevin Perez, Officer Robert Sabater, Officer David Rivas, and Officer Steven Serrano were suspended with pay and are each facing one count of misdemeanor battery. Fernandez Rundle announced the charges Monday.

“These charges are as weak as church water wine,” Circle of Brotherhood executive director Lyle Muhammad told reporters outside of the Miami Beach Police Department headquarters on Washington Avenue.

A group of about 20 officers flooded the lobby of the Royal Palm Hotel shortly before 2 a.m. on July 26. Dalonta Crudup, 24, of Kentucky, and New Yorkers Khalid Vaughn, 28, and Sharif Cobb, 27, were arrested. Crudup was the subject of a police chase. Vaughn and Cobb stumbled upon Crudup’s violent arrest in the hotel’s lobby and decided to film officers with their phones. They were arrested too. Vaughn needed stitches at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Video shows Lt. Jose Reina chased Crudup into the hotel’s elevator, held him at gunpoint and Crudup raised his hands, dropped to the ground, and put his hands behind his back. Fernandez Rundle said Crudup was in handcuffs on the ground when Sgt. Jose Perez kicked him three times and Officer Kevin Perez kicked him at least four times. She said the Perez are not related.

“If any one of us would have taken a boot to an incapacitated, handcuffed police officer, I think we’d be charged with more than a misdemeanor,” Muhammad said.

WATCH: Circle of Brotherhood news conference

William DC Clark, a 28-year veteran of the Miami-Dade Fire Department and Circle of Brotherhood member, said there were officers who witnessed the violence and didn’t intervene to “deescalate” the situation. He said every officer “who played a part in the situation that day” should be suspended, fired, or demoted.

“Most may be good officers, but it’s time for those good officers to take a stand, “said Clark, who is campaigning for the Miami-Dade County Commissioner District 2 seat.

Fernandez Rundle charged three officers — Sabater, Rivas, and Serrano — for repeatedly striking Vaughn. Video shows Sabater tackled, slammed, and pinned Vaughn who was using his phone to record the melee. Video shows a group of officers cornered Vaughn. Muhammad said “policing culture” needs to be “redefined” with training.

“This is something that we relive over and over again,” Muhammad said, later adding, “I want to see those officers in handcuffs.”

Fernandez Rundle did not mention Cobb’s arrest during the news conference Monday. According to the July 26 arrest affidavit, an officer punched Cobb in the upper torso and he suffered a swollen left lip and scrapes on his ankles. He was accused of resisting arrest without violence and of violating a new city ordinance.

“When those things are ignored as a part of the culture, we don’t expect them to be addressed,” Muhammad said about officials not publicly acknowledging Cobb’s arrest.

Tangela Sears, who runs Florida Parents of Murdered Children, a nonprofit organization that advocates for grieving families, said the situation was unacceptable.

“When we come in contact with these types of officers, they need to be terminated immediately and the State Attorney needs to charge them with a felony charge and there should be a process in the courts in place for them,” Sears said. “They should be jailed.”

The officers turned themselves in at the Miami Beach police station and were issued summons, so they didn’t get mugshots or go to jail.

Sears also asked Florida legislators to address policing on the state’s Bill of Rights and to create a database of officers in excessive use of force cases, “so even when they are terminated they are not hired by another department.” The Florida Department of Law Enforcement handles police officers’ certifications and The Department of Justice handles civil rights violations.

“If you’re serious about the police department protecting all of us, not just some of us, then you’ll send a strong warning to those that participated in that act,” Clark said.

Fernandez Rundle said on Monday more charges might be possible in the case. A spokesperson with Miami Beach released this statement on Wednesday afternoon: “The Chief and his staff met with the Circle of Brotherhood this afternoon. They had a meaningful and positive conversation, which is a key part of moving forward. The MBPD remains committed to ensuring the investigation follows the appropriate process.”

Other statements by Muhammad:

  • “We keep on calling these ‘isolated incidences,’ but they keep on occurring amongst the culture of abuse and racism”
  • “Black men have a right and a responsibility to be concerned when any brother, whether we know him personally or not, is attacked and brutalized in such a way.”
  • We need our politicians and policing officials to stop looking at these as isolated incidents and take a closer look at examining the culture of policing in America, the culture of policing in South Florida, and definitely the culture of policing right here in Miami Beach.”
  • “We get arrested, not only do we lose our jobs but we ... sure don’t get paid while we’re waiting to be understood and found out to be what the truth is.”
  • “There is so much training, growth, and development needed down here in Miami Beach that it ain’t even funny.”
  • “Just like police departments have an opportunity to be put on status or probation when they’re under investigation, police unions right now in America need to be put under investigation for abuses, and if we find none, good.”
  • “We’re not an angry mob. We’re very concerned citizens who understand if politicians and police officials don’t do what they’re supposed to do it’s going to force us to do what we have to.”

Other statements by Clark:

  • “You arrest that perp and you give him his day in court, but you cannot be judge jury and executioner all at one time, you’re supposed to be held to a higher standard.”
  • “The word ‘de-escalate’ should be at the forefront of your being, so the question is, ‘Are you serving people of color or have you taken a backseat to serving us?’”
  • “All of our communities, even us, need the police but we need them to treat us with the same respect that they do others.”

Another statement by Sears: “The majority of our officers are good officers and I work with them daily, but that small percentage needs to be released.”

WATCH: Fernandez Rundle’s news conference on Monday

Related stories

Related arrest forms

Cobb’s arrest

Vaughn and Crudup arrests

Sgt. Jose Perez

Officer Kevin Perez

Officer Robert Sabater

Officer David Rivas

Officer Steven Serrano

About the Authors:

Ian Margol joined the Local 10 News team in July 2016 as a general assignment reporter. Born in Miami Beach and raised in Broward County, Ian is thrilled to be back home in South Florida.

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.