Miami, FL – A police officer was relieved of duty on Thursday, hours after a disturbing video was posted on Facebook that showed him running up to a man who was handcuffed and restrained on the ground, and kicking his head like a soccer ball for no apparent reason.
The video was posted by Facebook user Lisa Harrell, and it showed a man lying on the grass in the yard outside of a house with his hands behind his back. A police officer was standing a few feet away, and he pulled out a pair of handcuffs from his belt and skipped over to the man who was already in full surrender position. The officer locked the man’s hands in the handcuffs, and the man did not appear to resist arrest in any way.
As the first officer finished putting on the handcuffs, a second officer came running up and he forcefully and intentionally kicked the man’s head as if it was a soccer ball, all while the man lay on the ground with his hands restrained, an officer sitting on his back, and no possible way to pose a threat to the officer who assaulted him, or to defend himself.
The officer who kicked the man then turned around, knelt down, and slammed the man’s head into the ground, assaulting him a second time as three other officers approached the scene, and the video ended.
“You didn’t have to do all that, buddy. You tripping,” Harrell remarked after she recorded the encounter. In her Facebook post, she noted that the suspect “was down already” and that the officer “didn’t have to kick him.”
“He was already in handcuffs, he was not resisting or anything," Harrell told Local 10 News. "He was already in handcuffs and the other one came running out of nowhere and kicked him like a football and basically jumped on him.”
Harrell also said she hopes that by drawing attention to this incident, it teaches the officer a lesson, and deters police departments from hiring him in the future.
“I hope nobody else hires him because you can’t do stuff like that. That is against your job duties,” Harrell said. “You are not here to hurt people, you are here to protect people. If he did something wrong, I understand. He is a criminal he should go to jail. I understand. But you don’t have to hurt him.”
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Police identified the handcuffed man on the ground as David Suazo, and the officer who kicked him as Mario Figuerroa. While police claimed that officers began chasing Suazo because they believed he was driving a stolen car, and they say he crashed it into a nearby wall and took off running, the video of the encounter shows a man surrendering to police and showing no signs that he was going to get up and run.
What's more, none of the other police officers mentioned the kick in the police report. The report only noted that "while placing the defendant into the back of the police vehicle, the defendant started to tense up his body to avoid being placed in the vehicle." What measures the officers took to get him inside the vehicle weren't in the report either.
Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina confirmed that Officer Figuerroa, who has been with the department for two years, has been relieved of duty.
"The city of Miami Police Department received a video on an incident involving one of my officers," Colina said. "The video depicts a clear violation of policy. The officer has been relieved of duty and the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office has been contacted."
Suazo’s sister, Maritza Valerio, told CBS Miami that she was shocked to see the video on Facebook because police told the family that nothing happened during the arrest.
“I go home and saw it on Facebook and God, there’s the video of what the sergeant on the scene alleged didn’t happen, which is my brother being on the ground already handcuffed and being kicked in the face by another officer,” Valerio said.
It remains to be seen whether Figuerroa will face charges for his actions, but the fact that the department was quick to relieve him of duty following the release of the footage is a good start.
If you would like to contact the Miami-Dade Police Department to express your opinion on the chief’s response to the excessive force used by Officer Figuerroa, you can call
(305) 476-5423, or visit the department’s Facebook page.