By PoliceOne Staff
MIAMI — A Miami officer has been charged after a viral video captured a confrontation with a suspect during an arrest.
A Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office news release said Tuesday that Officer Mario Figueroa has been charged with assault, a second-degree misdemeanor, the Associated Press reports. The officer was initially suspended after a 51-second cellphone video of the incident was posted Thursday.
Police said officers tried to stop the suspect, 31-year-old David Suazo, in a stolen Jeep, but he fled the scene and crashed into a wall at an apartment complex. Suazo took a fighting stance when confronted by Figueroa, who used a TASER on the suspect, which was ineffective.
After another officer used a TASER on the suspect, Suazo compiled and got on the ground. The cellphone video shows Suazo lying on the ground with an officer standing over him when Figueroa runs and makes a kicking motion towards the suspect’s head, but his foot never made contact with Suazo, according to the Miami-Herald.
Recently released body cam footage shows Suazo not long after the attempted kick, mocking the officer’s efforts.
“Missed on the kick. Learn how to aim, my boy,” Suazo said.
“I didn’t kick you. I didn’t want to kick you … I needed you to comply so me pretending to kick you got you to comply, right?” Figueroa replied.
Because Figueroa’s kick didn’t touch Suazo, he wasn’t charged with battery. On Tuesday, Miami Chief Jorge Colina, who suspended Figueroa, moved to begin firing the officer.
“The Miami Police Department would like to assure the community that it will not tolerate any transgressions against the badge its officers are meant to wear with honor, and remains committed to maintaining the highest possible standards of ethics, transparency, and accountability,” Colina said in a statement.
After Figueroa was charged, the city’s police union defended the officer’s actions, according to the Miami New Times. The union said Figueroa’s attempted kick was a “de-escalation technique,” and that then officer “showed great restraint.”
“While some have characterized this as police brutality, it couldn’t be farther from the truth,” Edward Lugo, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 20, said. “The only thing brutal about this entire incident is the suspect that endangered the lives of the community in which our Miami Police officers risked their lives to take this dangerous man off the streets. From the onset, the media stated that Officer Figueroa had kicked the suspect on the head.”
Suazo faces several charges, including grand theft and fleeing an officer.