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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — On August 27th at approximately 8:30 pm, four plain clothes Miami Dade Police officers pulled onto a dead end street in South Dade and arrested three young black men. The scene was captured on video camera.
According to the police report, the three men were arrested because officers claimed to see them passing what appeared to be a marijuana cigarette. When the officers approached, they said they found a marijuana cigarette on the ground near where the men were standing.
They arrested the men for possession of marijuana – a misdemeanor.
Two of the men were released on the spot after signing tickets promising to appear in court.
The third man, Tannie “T-Man” Burke wasn’t given that option. Instead police officers handcuffed him and led him to the back of an unmarked car where he appeared to have trouble finding the door.
“He’s blind dumb***,” the man videotaping the incident is heard saying. “If you don’t tell him he’s walking to the car how the (expletive) is he going to know?”
“T-Man what are they taking you for?” a woman shouts.
“I don’t know,” Burke replies.
Blind since birth, the 21-year-old Burke can’t see anything out of his right eye, and is only able to make out general shapes and lights with his left.
He’s able to navigate around his block in the daytime but is afraid to wander too far at night.
“I’ve got to be with somebody, or I’ve got to call somebody and have them meet me at this spot and I’ll walk with them,” Burke told CBS4’s Jim DeFede.
For 20 minutes Burke estimates the officers drove him around before finally releasing him in a dark and desolate section of South Dade nearly a mile from his home.
“They put me off somewhere in Goulds. There were no street lights and no houses,” he said. “It was just dark.”
CBS4’s Jim DeFede asked, “Did you tell the officers you were blind?”
“Yes I told them in the car I was blind and I couldn’t see,” Burke said.
DeFede then asked, “Did they seem to care?”
“Not that I know of,” he answered. “They put me out somewhere where they aren’t no street lights and no houses.”
Out on the edge of some vacant farm land, they made him sign an arrest form he couldn’t read.
Burke said he asked them to drop him off closer to his house, but they refused.
He had no cell phone. The police had taken it.
DeFede asked, “Were you mad or angry?”
“I was trying to get home. That’s all it was. I was just trying to find my way home,” he said.
Unsure of where to go, Burke started walking. He kept his right foot on the road and his left foot in the weeds to prevent him from wandering into the middle of the street where he might get hit by a car.
“I went down the street until I found some light and I stayed on the same street going back and forth until somebody came,” he said.
Eventually, he came upon a stranger who helped him get home.
“Forty-five minutes to an hour later he comes walking through the door all sweaty up,” said his stepfather, Marvin Armstrong.
“I was like, `How’d you get out?’ He said they released me way in the back,” Armstrong recalled.
Armstrong is Burke’s stepfather and the man behind the camera filming Burke’s arrest and heaping insults on officers.
Burke believes the police took him away as payback for Armstrong’s actions. He said the cops complained about him after they put him in the car.
“They said, `Your stepfather got a lot of mouth. You know we don’t like that,’” he said.
Burke, who has never been convicted of a crime, has been arrested twice and detained by police on more than a dozen other occasions. Being stopped and handcuffed in his neighborhood, he said, is nothing new.
“I feel they stop me because they see a black man walking down the street,” he said. “I don’t know what to say about it. I just feel bad about it. That’s it.”
Last month the misdemeanor marijuana charges were dismissed by prosecutors.
Burke’s family filed a complaint with the Miami Dade Police Department.
A Miami Dade Police spokesman declined to comment on the way its officers treated Tannie Burke, saying the case was now being investigated by the department’s Internal Affairs unit.
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