I-Team: Police Video Shows Possible Abuse

SWEETWATER (CBS4) – A new video is raising questions of possible police abuse and excessive force in the city of Sweetwater.

In the video, obtained by CBS4 News I Team investigator Jim DeFede, a Sweetwater reserve officer is seen grabbing a handcuffed suspect by the neck and throwing him to the floor of the station house.

The suspect, Alberto Dominguez, hits a metal chair and then lands face first on the floor, resulting in a large cut over his right eye. The department’s surveillance cameras capture Dominguez bleeding profusely as the officer, Paul Abreu, continues to grab him by the head and neck, twisting and turning him, until he gets Dominguez on his belly. A second officer enters the picture and grabs Dominguez by the shirt, dragging him into a nearby cell, leaving him face down and bleeding – his hands still cuffed behind his back.

Dominguez would remain in that cell for two hours before finally being taken to the county jail where he received approximately a dozen stitches.

“The force that I saw on the video was clearly excessive,” said Ken Harms, a former Miami Police chief who reviewed the video for CBS4 News.

Sweetwater Police Chief Roberto Fulgueira defended Abreu, saying while his “technique” in subduing the suspect was not ideal, it was not illegal. He said he sent a copy of the video to the Miami Dade State Attorney’s Office which concluded there was no “criminal intent” on the part of Abreu.

But other questions are raised by the officer’s sworn arrest affidavit from the April 17, 2010 incident. The report documents that Dominguez was initially arrested for criminal mischief for allegedly puncturing the tires of a car parked near his trailer. The report then notes Abreu was transported to the Sweetwater Police Department.

Abreu claimed that once they arrived at the station, he ordered Dominguez “4 to 6” times to place his hands on the counter inside the police department. He said Dominguez refused to comply with his demands. Abreu also swore that “suspect launch forward toward officer” and that as a result the suspect was “taken down to floor.” Abreu added the charge of resisting arrest with violence against Dominguez.

A review of the video, however, shows that Dominguez, 38, could not possibly comply with Abreu’s command to place his hands on the counter because his hands were cuffed behind his back. Also nowhere on the video is Dominguez seen launching himself toward the officer. On the contrary, Dominguez was standing still when Abreu grabbed him and threw him to the ground.

Neither the State Attorney nor the Sweetwater Police Department addressed the issue of whether Abreu may have filed a false report under oath or whether he intentionally charged Dominguez with a crime he did not commit.

The 52-year-old Abreu, who has been a reserve officer in Sweetwater since 2008, could not be reached for comment. CBS4 News left messages for him at the station, visited his last known address, and had both his commander and the police chief attempt to contact him but without success.

Harms said he was mystified that neither the State Attorney nor the Sweetwater police department’s internal affairs unit even bothered to interview Dominguez.

Harms argues the assistant state attorney “essentially repeats what the officer’s report says, without questioning any of it, without taking any statements from the officer, without taking any statements from the individual who was arrested. And that’s troubling because that suggests to me that the State Attorney’s Office failed to handle their responsibilities in a professional manner.

“Are they simply looking to rubber stamp this kind of behavior on the part of police officers and police departments?” Harms continued. “And I would suggest to you that happens more frequently than we would like to consider and not like to admit.”

In an email sent to CBS4 News, Assistant State Attorney Johnette Hardiman wrote: “I remember watching the video, multiple times. I slowed it down and watched it almost frame-by-frame. I have no recollection of reading reports that were false. However, if there is something else I should look at, I’m happy to do so. All I need is a copy of the reports and whatever evidence there is that shows them to be false.”

Hardiman notes that Dominguez never filed a complaint with Sweetwater’s Internal Affairs unit. She also said he refused treatement from paramedics that night, which could make it difficult to document the extent of his injuries.

CBS4 News found Dominguez and his wife, Isel, living near Coral Gables. He said he never bothered filing a complaint against the officer because he didn’t believe anyone would believe him.

“I had no proof,” he said in Spanish.

He didn’t realize there was a surveillance camera system inside the police station. Both he and his wife were shocked when CBS4 News showed them the video.

“Oh my God, Alberto,” Isel gasped as she watched him being thrown to the ground and then dragged, bleeding into a cell.

Isel claims a few days after her husband’s arrest, the police officer, Abreu, called her on the phone and asked her to go out with him.

“Oh my God why is this guy calling me, why is he texting me,” she remembered asking herself at the time. “I don’t know what to do. He called me like fifteen or twenty times. Every day, every day.”

Looking back on it now, she believes he was calling her to keep tabs on her and see if they were going to file a complaint for the incident at the police department. She finally told him to stop bothering her.

Dominguez ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief. He paid to replace the tires he destroyed.

Fulgueira defended his department saying he took it upon himself to open a review of Abreu’s actions and that he sent the video to the state attorney right away because he didn’t want to be accused of covering anything up.

He said he knows Sweetwater has a reputation for abusing prisoners. In 2003, a man was nearly beaten to death by four Sweetwater police officers.

“We’ve cleaned this house up,” he said. “We’ve gotten rid of a lot of officers here, a lot of officers.”

Abreu remains a reserve officer in the Sweetwater Police Department. After the incident, he was ordered to take a refresher CPR course as well as attend a class on handcuffing techniques and the proper use of force.

More from Jim DeFede
Comments

One Comment

  1. Jason says:

    Excellent job Mr. Defede! Thank you for having the guts to stand up to these types of injustices! Keep up the good work!

    1. May God help us says:

      May God have mercy on us,

      These police officers know quite well that the State Attorney’s Office, under the command of Kathrine Fernandez Rundel and others within the department, always see no wrong doings on the officers’ part. that lady needs to be arrested and sentenced to life for the injustices she rendered to innocent victims. according to her and her rulings, police officers never done anything wrong no matter the convincing evidence presented, I really wonder what the FBI and those other agencies doing about these abuses and denial of the rights of the citizens of this country?.

      These police officers and prosecutors lie daily so as to get convictions and nothing is done about it, what a world of wickedness?. How on earth could this woman in her heart see such obvious misuse of force and have the adiposity to say there is no wrong doing by the officer?.

      She and her department messed up my life, can you imagine a woman came to my place attacked me and I was the one who got arrested? Let me tell you something world, when these people are called upon by God to give account for the wickedness they render to innocent poor people, it’s going to be a bitter end for them.

  2. Buz Bowen says:

    Assistant State Attorney Johnette Hardiman wrote: “I remember watching the video, multiple times. I slowed it down and watched it almost frame-by-frame. I have no recollection of reading reports that were false

    Perhaps she should get her eyes examined and watch the video again, or maybe the cops switched videos

  3. OH my God! says:

    May God have mercy on us,

    These police officers know quite well that the State Attorney’s Office, under the command of Katharine Fernandez Rundle and others within the department, always see no wrong doings on the officers’ part. that lady needs to be arrested and sentenced to life for the injustices she rendered to innocent victims. according to her and her rulings, police officers never done anything wrong no matter the convincing evidence presented, I really wonder what the FBI and those other agencies doing about these abuses and denial of the rights of the citizens of this country?.

    These police officers and prosecutors lie daily so as to get convictions and nothing is done about it, what a world of wickedness?. How on earth could this woman in her heart see such obvious misuse of force and have the audacity to say there is no wrong doing by the officer?.

    She and her department messed up my life, can you imagine a woman came to my place attacked me and I was the one who got arrested? Let me tell you something world, when these people are called upon by God to give account for the wickedness they render to innocent poor people, it’s going to be a bitter end for them.

  4. Mario says:

    MOST people in Miami-dade DESERVE low quality city officials because MOST do not vote or vote for useless, non caring politicos .
    Most here are not involved and the most apathetic bunch you could possibly meet.

    I say this as a Hispanic American living in banana republic Miami-dade.

    1. CITIZENS says:

      SINCE WHEN HAS THERE BEEN ANYONE GOOD , HONEST AND PROPER FOR THE JOB TO VOTE FOR AND WHY….COULD THE STATE ATTORNEY AND ATTORNEY GENERAL HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THAT ! AND WHY ?

  5. michael wind says:

    everyone who has a gun and a badge must take regular lie detector tests.

    1. OMG says:

      OH NO Michael !

      If the Police had to take regular lie dector tests … who would “protect us”

      they would all be in jail

      1. phony heat fans says:

        The first cop that should take a lie detector test should be the miami-dade pd rector james loftus. That guy is a dumb bunny with his crying acts on t.v. He cries so good, he would be good for a spanish novela.

  6. A LOPEZ says:

    IN MY DAYS NOT SO LONG AGO I WOULD TAKE HIS SHIELD AND GUNN AND LOCK HIS B/HIND UP SIMPLLE THAT IDIOT COMMITTED A CRIME A FELONY HE ACTED WILLFULLY AND MALICIUSLLY WITH INTENT TO HARM THE VERY PERSON UNDER HIS CARE AND CUSTODY A CRIMINAL ACT AND VIOLATION OF THE OATH HE TOOK TO SERVE AND PROTECT ALL UNDER THE LAW OF THE STATE AND THE U.S CONST.
    NOT ALL POLICE MAN ARE BAD IS THE IDIOTS LIKE THAT ONE THAT MAKE THAT JOB AND THE REST OG THE GOOD ONES LOOK BAD.

  7. Giana says:

    Increible,how they let a police office do something like that?that officer most be in jail his a criminal.

    1. Nancy says:

      well hes NOT in jail and HES STILL a police officer for the department! Still holds a badge and gun!

    2. A LOPEZ says:

      THE REASON I PUT WILLFULLY AND MALICIUSLLY IS ONE; HE ASSULTED THE MAN IN CUFFS; TWO HE GENERATED A FALSE REPORT; TREE HE TRYED TO COVER IT UP IT SIMPLLY AFFIRMS THAT INFACT HE IS A CRIMINAL; I LEAVE THE PHONECALL BITT OUT AND IF HE DID AND THE LADY CAN PROVE THAT WELL HE WILL HAVE A VERY HARD TIME IN D.O.C AND I HOPE HE IS SENT THERE SOON AND THE VICTIM BETTER GETT JOE NUSBAUM AND SUE THE HECK OUT OF THEM.

  8. yeminmoshe says:

    I’ve been reading both the Miami Herald and the SunSentinel for at least 20 years, and I can easily atest that the cops in Dade County, mostly of hispanic
    descent, want to treat everybody like they were in Latin America. in Latin America,mostly South America, there is a history of arbitration and lack of punishment. It is time to americanize that police department.

  9. Joe says:

    Finally a little bit of the truth about what cops do to people when they are handcuffed and behind closed doors when they think no one is watching. These cops don’t have what it takes to go toe to toe with anyone without having them handcuffed and hiding behind their badge and gun. Pretty cowardly to hide behind your shield and have your way while someone is handcuffed. Why not take off the handcuffs and badge and go around back and have it out man to man. But I’m sure that wouldn’t work either because all their cop buddies would be there to jump in. Alot of people would say they are brave because they face criminals that have guns. The truth is many people could do the same job if they would be giving a chance. Cowards hiding behind a badge is what they are.

  10. Mad Keith Beyond Geezerdome says:

    The Gazpopo lie to us again. My pant leg is wet and it smells like urine here.

  11. TechnoHippie says:

    “… Assistant State Attorney Johnette Hardiman wrote: “I remember watching the video, multiple times. I slowed it down and watched it almost frame-by-frame….”

    Well what kind of freakin idiot is this? How can you watch this video and not arrest the cop?

    1. H Memorial Day says:

      For me, she never watched any video or maybe she was talking about any other video!or someone make that email or testimony for her and she sing it without look at it or read it! Assistant State Attorney Johnette,make mistakes everybody make mistakes,but that’s her job and we can’t be represent for someone that do her her job at lunch time with her mouth full,and singning declaration without looking at it! Increible! How manny of us has been in any traffic violation or any problem with Courthouse and this assistant of state attorney office sing and send n that set I finished my job for today! I’m going home! she’s not what we need in the Courthouse!

  12. Suleyma says:

    Well my opinion is:this officer whatever his name is,he had a plan! a perfect nasty plan.With the arrest of Dominguez,his opportunity to get in touch with Dominguez wife,if you see the video you could see the way he atack Dominguez,he was very angry,he have a personal matter with Mr Dominguez that’s clear!I think the only propose,was take Dominguez away from the game.I’m a lady and I know how a police act wen they like a lady for them…

    1. Luap70 says:

      To Suleyma: What make you think or guess, that he was angry or had any plan? You don’t know nothing about this, your opinion has no sense,can you do your lelf a big favor and see the video just one more time,the video talks about something else Suleyma,nothing to do with wife or kids,so I don’t see the reason of mentioned Mr: D wife,I don’t undertand what you mean,I really don’t get it yet. This is about the two Mr A. Are you trying to put others in some king of conflict? Miss Suleyma,don’t talk about something that you don’t know! Have some respect for others ppl,Dominguez wife have nothing to do with this case! Thank you and have a wonderful Memorial Weekend!

      1. A LOPEZ says:

        luap70 what makes you think that suleyma is wrong? that very well may be since its there as part of the story as well if they can affirm that with phone records he is guilty of OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT one more time and HARRASMENT ABUSE OF OFFICE even STALKING so read the story ok you will see it futher more those things do happen it happens in all departments in other citys you just may not hear of it is called keepping your laundry at home glad this man expose this unfitt officer if you can call him that and yes have a nice memorial day.

  13. the handyman says:

    WT the hell who’s talking about this person wife lady?the fact is what you see in the video nothing else.

  14. wet dog says:

    Look at the criminal history records of those involved before you jump to conclusions. There is mulitiple arrests for domestic violence etc. Also, the video shows the officer was attemting to remove the handcuffs and the prisoner would not cooperate, even spitting at the officer (see video 2:05).

    1. A LOPEZ says:

      his history does not justify the abuse nor the officers conduct if it was like that half of dade county hospitas be full of wounded suspects and soon to sue law firms clients; what happen to the constitution and his training? we do know what happens if one assumes and the video does have sound and makes me wonder.

  15. Panda says:

    And they wonder y people dont respect them and theyget shot everyday.they need to stop thinking they r GODn stop the abuse its ok to put a little bit of force if necessary but to this extreme they diserve to get shot

    1. A LOPEZ says:

      No one does not even you ok and the first one you call is the police he deserves jail that is clear he all ready violated several state and conduct rules never mind p.p.p,cd and even federal laws under the color of office just an other bad applle that needs to be seen by the F.D.L.E SIMPLLY.

  16. H Memorial Day says:

    Ahh Mr wet Cat my bad! Sorry wet dog,well I’m very sorry for that mistake! In fact we are not talking about animal. We are giving opinions about what we clearly see in that video up there! Your comment was super good wow. I just wanna to say:If you are really a images video expert. You are a amazing! How can you clear see. Obviously observe with your eye a spit floating in the air? Lol no way! You are a super dog sorry I’m I bad,I love all animals! No offense! Whatever! The fact is that you opinion is,if any civilian who have history or anything on his record have to be treated like that?huh? No Mr Wet Cat,you better get some fresh air and don’t be wet!that’s bad for you,you gone get sick! No matter who you are or what you did or not,every human in this planet everything with life deserve respect,God love all of us,with the same amount!the officer his human too and his only involved in this case ! the opportunity to explain,testify!and have his lawyers to defend him! Like I said! This is USA free country!don’t mix ppl past records with resent,bcuz that’s not what the justice is going to do,you can’t be judge for what you did or not in the pass and can’t be convicted for what you already get judges! So don’t come with comment
    ts that don’t have any sense at all! Plus its impossible bcuz do you really see the officer holding a key to take handcuffs? Well you really are a amazing video expect! We need citizens like you.

  17. Jim Kane says:

    These police state tactics will be more evident as the DHS now is allowing these aggressive tactics on US citizens. Our Bill of Rights’ forth amendment is fast being trashed and the apathetic Americans do nothing. Pray to god Ron Paul gets elected and the DHS get the boot.

  18. Lost but not Forgotten! says:

    Wow, everybody loves to bash the police when the bandwagon comes around don’t they. What about the fact that they put their lives on the line everyday they work and when they are off of work. That everyday they have to watch their backs because of the criminal element that they deal with on a daily basis watching for a moment to strike for payback. We can sit here and quarterback the whole video but what if Mr. Dominguez did spit at the officer which is what it looked like to me. Spitting on anyone is considered battery and a justified means to physical force that was taken by the officer. Eventhough Mr. Dominguez is handcuffed he still physically resisted the officer and could still pose a threat. How? Who knows what someone is capable of, the fact that Mr. Dominguez has his two legs free to kick and injure the officer still poses a threat especially if he had any type of martial arts skills. I’m not saying that Ofc. Abreu is a saint or there are no bad apples in the barrel but I believe that he was justified in what he did and that he didn’t slam Mr. Dominguez’s head into the chair on purpose, the chair happened to be there and by the unfortunate luck Mr. Dominguez hit his head and cut it open. In fact, if Mr. Dominguez had not hit his head on that chair this whole thing would not be an issue. Mr. Dominguez would not have had to have stitches and the Media would not see any potential news story to cover. Which 90% of the News these days is always something that is bad in nature because everyone knows “The only good news is bad news”. Case in point, when there is good that happens it is briefly covered while things that are devious and bad linger in the media. I pray for all those who part their lives on the line, Military, Fire Fighters, Emergency First Responders, and Police Officers. I pray for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom and to be able to have the privilege to be able to disagree without fear of reprisal. Think about what you have done in life before you judge others…

    1. H Memorial Day says:

      Principle 1

      All persons under any form of detention or imprisonment shall be treated in a humane manner and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.

      Principle 2

      Arrest, detention or imprisonment shall only be carried out strictly in accordance with the provisions of the law and by competent officials or persons authorized for that purpose.

      Principle 3

      There shall be no restriction upon or derogation from any of the human rights of persons under any form of detention or imprisonment recognized or existing in any State pursuant to law, conventions, regulations or custom on the pretext that this Body of Principles does not recognize such rights or that it recognizes them to a lesser extent.

      Principle 4

      Any form of detention or imprisonment and all measures affecting the human rights of a person under any form of detention or imprisonment shall be ordered by, or be subject to the effective control of, a judicial or other authority.

      Principle 5

      1. These principles shall be applied to all persons within the territory of any given State, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion or religious belief, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, birth or other status.

  19. Wet Dog says:

    Well, Memorial Day, it’s a good thing you are not a Judge…….what you appear to be is a Monday Morning Quarterback. I wonder how you would react if in a similar situation as this Officer was in. There are two sides here and I still don’t see the cause for the uproar, except of course by Mr. Dominguez’s friends and family posting here…..let’s just see where this thing goes on it’s own merit.

  20. Wet Dog says:

    One question for H Memorial Day. Now that you got your thrills and fun with my name while hiding behind your computer – what does the “H” in front of Memorial stand for?

    1. H Memorial Day says:

      Mr.Wet dog:

      In reply to your comments.

      I apologize for my improperly conduct,I appreciate your giving me the opportunity,that was incorrect.

      Your first comment: Yes I agree with you!this is a conflict between two families,not only Dominguez,also Officer Abreu and his family.
      Every person have to be tray with the same respect! Mr Abreu have feelings like every human in this planet,we all make mistakes,and I understand that he represent authority,and we all need them,to be protect. However we all know,he have the same rights to be represented by his lawyers or any department according with the Law everybody in this county have the same human Rights.
      We are looking at the video,we don’t know Mr,Abreu’s declaration,we can’t make conclusions yet!and I do feel sorry for Mr,Abreu, I have a heart… and I know he is human,and God forgive.

      In your other comment you ask a question,well the reason I put a H,means Happy Memorial Day.

      I appreciate your attention,and one more time,I apologize to you sincerely.

      Thank you and have a good week.

  21. Wet Dog says:

    H Memorial Day. No apology needed although much appreciated. I simply wanted to point out that no one should draw any conclusions based on just this video and the narration that leads people to think the way the narrator wants them to think. Look at the video again and mute the narration. Officer Abreau was alone and dealing with a prisoner that was combative. The prisoner would not cooperate with the officers orders to turn around and face the counter so the handcuffs could be removed. The Officer made a decision to take down the prisoner in an effort to get him to cooperate (all the prisoner needed to do was allow the cuffs to be removed),….. The take-down is standard police practice when dealing with unruly prisoners as is seen in hundreds of similar videos. More importandly, it was a one-on-one situation, no batons, sticks, clubs, ganging up etc…..just one officer asserting his right to protect himself while doing his job. His job at that moment was to uncuff the prisoner and get the prisoner to put his hands on the counter. That’s all. This prisoner (Dominguez) was preventing the process and paid the price. Unfortunately he hit a chair on the way down which resulted in a laceration to his face. This was not intentional on the officers part. Just think, why would the officer do anything to expose himself to bloodborn pathogens (HIV, etc) from this stranger, it was bad enough to be spit at by Dominguez, why add to the problem by exposing one’s self to the prisoners blood as well……. Takedowns are never pretty and for those not educated on the practice, it appears abusive and/or over-kill, but I assure you it is for the prisoners safety as well as the officers. As I wrote in an earlier post, Dominguez has a history of domestic violence and more criminal activity on his police record. He was caught with a large knife slashing the car tires of a relative of his wife. Just having a knife in his hands could have resulted in him being shot by some other policemen. Officer Abreau did not resort to that, he simply disarmed and arrested Dominguez. Dominguez could have avoided all this by simply following orders but his Machismo got the better of him. Now he wants to play inocent victim because he thinks he can make some big bucks off this incident.

  22. H Memorial Day says:

    “To Wet Dog”

    The types of conduct of the detained or imprisoned person that constitute disciplinary offences during detention or imprisonment, the description and duration of disciplinary punishment that may be inflicted and the authorities competent to impose such punishment shall be specified by law or lawful regulations and duly published.
    Damage incurred because of acts or omissions by a public official contrary to the rights contained in these principles shall be compensated according to the applicable rules or liability provided by domestic law.
    Information required to be recorded under these principles shall be available in accordance with procedures provided by domestic law for use in claiming compensation under the present principles.
    A detained person suspected of or charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent and shall be treated as such until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
    The term “cruel” inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,should be interpreted so as to extend the widest possible protection against abuses,whether physical or mental,including the holding of a detained or imprisoned person in conditions which deprive him, temporarily or permanently of the use of any of his natural senses,such as sight or hearing,or of his awareness of place and the passing of time.

  23. Wet Dog says:

    H Memorial Day – I don’t understand your comment above. It reads like something out of the United Nations and International Agreements as they apply to Prisoners of War.

  24. CITIZENS says:

    NOTICE THIS ? SINCE WHEN HAS THERE BEEN ANYONE GOOD , HONEST AND PROPER FOR THE JOB TO VOTE FOR AND WHY….COULD THE STATE ATTORNEY AND ATTORNEY GENERAL HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THAT ! AND WHY ?

  25. Gay says:

    Martha you have to comment in English I’m with you,things like this happen every day!and nothing happen!!! sometimes we have to look at both sites of the story,just let’s wait what happen,I want to believe this people are doing something about it,hoping they act fast, because a year already pass,and if they wait much longer,they not going to have the opportunity of make this officer pay for what he did!

  26. suma32 says:

    Well and what happen in this case? Everything stay the same, well I think everybody is happy now.

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