Family Hires Attorney After Police Scuffle With Special Needs Man

RICHMOND HEIGHTS (CBS4) Family members of a man with Down Syndrome who was allegedly battered by a Miami-Dade police officer, have hired an attorney in what they say is a case of bullying and excessive force.

According to the police report, two Miami-Dade officers stopped Gilberto Powell, 22, in his Richmond Heights neighborhood while he was walking home at around 9 p.m. on Saturday.

During that time, the patrol officers stopped Powell because they saw a “bulge in (Powell’s) waist band,” the report said. That’s when police, “decided that a pat-down should be conducted.”

While attempting to pat him down, police said Powell “pushed off the vehicle and attempted to flee.”

After police gave “multiple commands to stop moving in attempt to handcuff him,” he “fell on the ground and struck his forehead,” officers wrote in the incident report.

Still ignoring their loud verbal commands “to stop resisting and obey,” police said Powell struck one of the officers in the chest and attempted to flee.

That officer then “struck the left side of (Powell’s) face with an open hand in an attempt to subdue him.”

Powell was by his house when he was handcuffed, according to the family’s attorney Philip Gold.

The officers finally determined the bulge in Powell’s pants was his medical colostomy bag, and Powell’s family says police pulled it from his body.

Powell’s father, Gilberto Hernandez told CBS4’s Natalia Zea he ran out of the house when he realized what was happening to his son.

“I ran out yelling ‘hey hey what are you doing to him? He’s Down Syndrome! Leave him alone! What are you doing?’ And when I got over there not one minute later his face was all busted up and he was in handcuffs.”

Hernandez couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

“I felt helpless, ’cause he was calling my name….He’s my baby, I go he goes, anywhere I go he goes with me.”

Gold said such a force by officer was not necessary.

“This is a case of excessive force and this may be a case of discrimination,” Gold said.

Gold said Richmond Heights is historically a black community and his “client was walking down the street from his own house when the police officers stopped him.”

He added that Powell, “Is hard to understand. They asked him what he had on him and he said a phone… he showed them a phone.”

In the police report, the officers reported that Powell was “not capable of understanding their commands,” and he was not arrested.

Powell was taken to Jackson Memorial South Hospital after the incident.

Gold said the family is shocked by the incident adding that Powell called his father earlier to say he was coming home and to open the door for him.

“They’re shocked that this would happen, or even could happen, and they are very emotional because they’ve spent Gilberto’s life caring for him and he’s someone who requires a lot of care and his parents have done that for him,” Gold said. “And when they witnessed it they came outside the house to see what had happened. They are an emotional wreck to see their baby boy harmed.”

Gold said that the next thing they saw when they stepped outside was Powell being body slammed and stripped. He said the family also told him that police ripped out Powell’s colostomy bag and punch him in the face.

“The father kept telling me, ‘Why would this happen to him?’ He wouldn’t hurt a fly,” Gold said.

Gold said Powell has Down Syndrome and is loved around the community. He said Powell told him that he “just wanted to go home and the cop is bad.”

“He’s never going to truly communicate how bad this was, but I can tell you that it’s inexcusable, unjustified form and it’s brutality,” Gold said.

Powell’s family is considering filing a lawsuit, and is meeting with Miami-Dade Police and they want something else.

“I’d like an apology for me and my family, and really I’m just doing this to make sure this doesn’t happen to any other little kid or anybody,” said Hernandez.

Gold said the department has six months to investigate the case before he makes the next move.

The police department released a statement saying, “The Miami-Dade Police Department continues to investigate the incident involving Mr. Gilberto Powell.  The integrity of the investigation and successful resolution of this case continues to remain our highest priority.  As a result, the investigation remains active and ongoing; therefore, we cannot provide additional information at this time.”

  • Tomax

    If he is special needs and hard to understand why would they let him walk by himself. This could of been avoided.

    • gfburke

      Your lame comment could be avoided if you never where born.

    • Zona

      So since he is not violent, is loved by his commu nity and is not a threat to anyone, he should stay inside.

      What an idiot you are.

    • Brad

      Oh, okay, cage him up like an animal because of a speech impediment…..equally as useful of a comment would have been to say “why didn’t the parents just move to a nicer part of town where the cops are less liekly to expect guns”

    • Dean

      Many people with down syndrome exhibit a high degree of independence.
      They don’t have to babysat all the time. I could have been avoided if the County stopped hiring testosterone infused loser as cops.

    • BR Sumbich

      I tend to agree with the above position. Why was this person let out on the streets UN-supervised if they truly are educationally challenged?

      • Chopper

        That is typical thinking of someone of lives in Mi-Jami. Why have cops that use their brains instead of beating a person down or shoot them for doing nothing minding their own business. What kind of screen name is BR Sumbich??? Oh, you must listen to Fox News 24/7.

      • Dudlee

        No cops are what you call educationally challenged. They can not differentiate between a criminal and an innocent person minding his own business.

      • tomp

        you do NOT agree.

    • ThugCopLife

      If your mom is beaten down by a cop for stealing sweet and low from Versalles, do not be surprised. Cops are trained to molest or shoot the ones who can not defend themselves. Wow, great point you made in the justification of thugs who beat down the innocent.

    • Dodified

      You have to stop listening to Fox News buddy. Your mom might have special needs, and if she talks back to a cop they will beat her down.

    • rogerrectrem

      you are a dumb ass and so are cops

  • dean

    Yet another example of the jack booted thugs who mascaraed as law enforcement abusing their power. Just watch, the MDPD will bury this. Let it be on the Beach, in Miami or in the County, No one is safe from these goons.

  • Anthony

    Of course this is the mentality of most south Florida police officers these days. Overreact first and say sorry later or that it was for their own safety. Nonsense. These officers simply don’t have the proper training in public relations. That is what happens with the military mentality they have adapted. Nothing wrong with that if you are in the military, but they need to be retrained for public service.

    • loucabratzee

      Just beware if you are j-walking in the city of Hialeah you might be shot. Cops are not heroes. If one is killed the whole community is on lock down for an entire day…. boo hoo croc tears. How could people respect cops who are the worst law breakers in Miami that beat innocent citizens and break every traffic law in the book. All cops can go to the underworld.

  • copflop

    If cops were smart they would be doing something productive with their lives. Cops are the bullies in high school, and when they graduate (mostly with a D average) become paid thugs. I hope one of these cops has a child that runs into the street and is hit by a food truck. To the parents of this innocent victim of abuse by thugs… just be glad the cops did not shoot him. Oh, to the cops that killed that rottweiler the other day you must have been trained really well. Again, cops are SOB’s with a gun and no brains… bang bang.

  • UckTheFunions

    How can you expect a kid out of high school with no education to go 9 months to a “boot camp”, get a badge and be in charge of securing neighborhoods? This is what happens when Miami Dade cops think they are bigger than anything else out there. No respect for human life, they just care about themselves, their pensions and their union!!

  • MDTD(Mia Dade Thug Dept)

    Freeze!! Put your hands up!! DROP your colostomy bag, now!! This is the Police!!

    • Sherry Blanco

      well said


    When MDPD hires Bad Cops from Bad Depts. They make themselves vulnerable to things like this.

  • ihatethepolice

    you know its not against the all to carry a gun in your waistband. why would they stop and question him. especially when you can clearly see by his face that he has down syndrome.

    • TOMP

      these officers, who beat this man up, should be in prison for life!

  • Sherry Blanco

    BTW, does his face really look like he did this falling on the pavement?

  • Mark Jensen

    As a parent of a child (20 y/o) with Down Syndrome I am indignant, angry, and horrified. I believe this family should pursue a lawsuit against the MDPD. I also believe this suit should seek out that these two officers, after they receive their permanent release from the department, provide 100 hours each of community service to a local Special Olympic event. Maybe then they will realize that these kids never mean any harm to anyone they just want to be accepted in a world that is stacked against them all because they have an extra 21st chromosone.

    • TOMP

      they will.

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