FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — Bruce LaClair admits he was homeless and had a few beers before falling asleep on a bus bench at a Fort Lauderdale bus terminal on February 22, 2015.READ MORE: Celtics run past Heat 93-80, move 1 win from NBA Finals
But LaClair was unprepared for what happened next and was caught on a cellphone camera — Officer Victor Ramirez waking him with his foot, then a few minutes later pushing him to the ground and forcefully slapping him in the face.
“I was shocked that he had knocked me to the ground,” LaClair told the court as Ramirez’s trial for battery and falsifying records began Tuesday. “Coming from a police officer, it was unexpected.”
In court, LaClair said he didn’t know it was illegal to sleep on the bus bench despite signs being posted. He also said he got up to go to the bathroom and was leaving.
Ramirez’s attorney, Michael Dutko, questioned LaClair and suggested he was possibly trying to grab officer Ramirez prior to the slap.
“I know that I was feeling defensive,” LaClair answered. “There’s a point where I bring my hands up to try to block, too.”READ MORE: South Florida family knows firsthand effects of nationwide baby formula shortage
Attorney Dutko said Ramirez was justified in his actions and Dutko tried to explain to the jury why Ramirez shoved LaClair.
“His intention was not to shove him to the ground,” Dutko explained. “Shove him a distance, and say, ‘Look, sir, you need to leave. You need to leave the bus terminal.'”
Dutko also addressed the slap.
“It’s intended as a distraction technique,” Dutko said. “It’s taught to the officers to control the situation.”
The prosecution finished presenting their case Tuesday.MORE NEWS: South Florida woman's bout with COVID included hair loss: 'This isn’t normal shedding'
On Wednesday, the defense will continue presenting their side and it’s likely that Ramirez will testify. Ramirez is suspended without pay from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department.