MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Another tourist from New York is contesting an arrest in Miami Beach during the Rolling Loud music festival weekend. A Miami Beach police officer is under scrutiny over his use of force while enforcing a new city law. It prohibits any person with the intent to interfere with an officer performing a legal duty from being within 20 feet of the officer — after a warning.
On July 25th, Mariyah Maple stumbled upon a traffic stop at Sixth Street and Collins Avenue and decided to use her phone to record it from the sidewalk. An officer shouted at her, quickly hit her with his bicycle, and pepper-sprayed her, video shows. Records show she was arrested at 3:20 a.m., booked at 8:28 a.m., and released at 9:10 p.m.
According to the arrest affidavit, Sgt. Vincent Stella used his bicycle as “a physical barrier” and used pepper spray when Maple, 27, and others “stood their ground and refused to move.” Chad Piotrowski, the Miami attorney representing Maple, released a video saying it “completely” contradicts what the officers alleged Maple did in the arrest affidavit.
“The officer walked up and attacked Ms. Maple,” Piotrowski said in a statement about the witnesses’ video. “The officer struck her with his bicycle and pepper-sprayed her for no reason and then fabricated the arrest report.”
Stella didn’t arrest Maple. Another officer who saw her complaining about her eyes burning from the pepper spray did, and Miami Beach Fire Rescue personnel took her to Mount Sinai Medical Center before an officer took her to jail.
According to Officer Ernesto Rodriguez, a spokesman for MBPD, the internal affairs unit is investigating Stella’s actions and he was placed on administrative duty. Rodriguez didn’t say when the investigation started, how it was started, or when Stella was reassigned. Chief Richard M. Clements “temporarily suspended” the enforcement of the city law, according to Rodriguez.
“As a result, there have been no arrests pursuant to this ordinance since July 26,” Rodriguez wrote. “No bodycam footage (related to Maple’s arrest) is available while the investigation is underway.”
Other MBPD officers also used the new city law to justify the arrests of two other tourists from New York, Khalid Vaughn, 28, and Sharif Cobb, 27, who decided to pull out their phones to record officers shortly before 2 a.m., on July 26. Vaughn’s arrest was part of the latest case of alleged excessive and unwarranted use of force by police in Miami-Dade.
Miami-Dade prosecutors used body cam video and surveillance video to file misdemeanor battery charges against three MBPD officers, Robert Sabater, David Rivas, and Steven Serrano, accusing them of punching and striking Vaughn at the Royal Palm Hotel. Two other officers are also facing charges in a violent arrest Vaughn and Cobb witnessed.
Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber said that if the new city law is keeping people from “videotaping, obviously something is wrong.”
During the late June meeting when Miami Beach commissioners passed the city law, Commissioner Steven Meiner, the sponsor of the law, said it was born out of efforts in Tallahassee to pass similar legislation, which he described as “a good idea.”
Florida Rep. Alex Rizo proposed House Bill 11, which mirrors the law, but instead of 20 feet requires 30 feet and punishes an accused violator more severely with a second-degree misdemeanor. Rizo filed it on July 19 as the first bill for the 2022 legislative session.
“Officers get surrounded and right now they have limited options on how to break that up,” Meiner said.
Rodriguez also said Clements wants to make sure all of the department’s officers receive additional training “on the nuances” of the new city law before officers are allowed to use it in the streets of Miami Beach again.
Miami-Dade County prosecutors dropped the cases against Vaughn and Cobb. Records show Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Stephanie Silver has Maple’s case and there is an arraignment hearing scheduled for 9:30 a.m., on Sept. 2.
WARNING: Expletives in raw witness’ video
Read the arrest report
MBPD spokesman’s statement:
The totality of circumstances surrounding the incident from July 25 are currently under review by the Internal Affairs Unit. While the investigation is underway, Sergeant Vincent Stella has been placed on administrative duty. At the directive of the Police Chief, MBPD has temporarily suspended the enforcement of CMB Ordinance 70-8 until all Miami Beach officers receive additional, in-person training on the nuances of the ordinance. As a result, there have been no arrests pursuant to this ordinance since July 26. No body cam footage is available while the investigation is underway.
11 p.m. report