MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A Homestead police officer has been charged after he reportedly used excessive force on a suspect who was in handcuffs.
Officer Lester Brown pushed the handcuffed man into a wall, which caused a bloody facial injury, according to police.
The incident happened in December 2018 at the Homestead substation and was captured on internal surveillance video.
The man shoved by Brown was arrested by Homestead police officers after they had received a call about a drunk causing a disturbance.
The suspect was taken into custody and charged with disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest without violence.
While at the Homestead Police Department Station, the man was escorted to the booking room, which was where he was pushed by Brown, according to the incident report.
Brown, who has been a Homestead police booking officer since November 2007, is facing felony battery and official misconduct charges.
Homestead police issued a statement concerning the arrest. It read in part:
“The arrest of Lester Brown is very disappointing, and overshadows the work of the dedicated men and women of the Homestead Police Department, who serve and protect our community every day. Police officers have a legal responsibility to abide by all laws and Lester Brown’s arrest demonstrates how seriously our police department takes that obligation.”
During a Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office news conference, Homestead Police Chief Al Rolle reacted to the incident.
“Homestead is a small department, a small community, but we’re not going to tolerate this kind of behavior from one of our police officers. We never have, and we never will,” Chief Rolle said.
Upon learning of the incident involving Corrections Officer Brown, he was immediately relieved of duty, and a full investigation was ordered.
“Officer Brown’s actions were not only improper, but they were crimes,” said Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “It’s really heartbreaking because no matter how hard we all try to build confidence in our community, between community and police so that we can solve crimes, so that they’ll come forward with information, with tips, you know, this sets us all back.”
Rundle said Officer Brown claims he heard commotion while officers were bringing the suspect into the station and being combative.
Brown said in his police report that the suspect fell because of a struggle between them.
“Our investigation of this incident and our review of the police surveillance video contradicts, in our view, it contradicts the official representation by Officer Brown of allegedly the facts of what happened that night,” Rundle said.
Brown has also been relieved of duty without pay and termination is pending.
Brown is currently suing the city for discrimination. He claims he has been passed over for promotion because he is missing two fingers on his left hand. The lawsuit is ongoing.
“We’ll see him in court. We feel very comfortable with our charges,” Rundle said. “We’re going to do the best we can for this community. We represent the people of this community and we’re going to do the best we can.”
Brown’s attorney C. Michael Cornely told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that he felt the charges were excessive and said the case should have been handled administratively. He called the charges “vindictive” and said it was “overkill” and “not a good season to be a police officer. “I’m disappointed in the State Attorney,” he said. “I believe this officer believed the man was a threat to him and he had to make a split second decision to put some space between him and the prisoner.”
This was not the first time this year a law enforcement officer has been charged in the use of force.
Last May, Miami-Dade police officer Alejandro Giraldo was charged with official misconduct for lying on a police report, a 3rd-degree felony, and a misdemeanor battery in the arrest of Dyma Loving. She filed a civil lawsuit against the Miami-Dade Police Department. Giraldo is awaiting trial.
Earlier this year, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald, prosecutors secured a conviction against Miami Officer Lester Bohnenblust, who roughed up a nurse at Jackson Memorial Hospital. He was sentenced to 45 days in jail.