A Miami-Dade police officer was relieved of duty after body-camera footage surfaced Wednesday night of him hitting a woman who was yelling at him at Miami International Airport.
The video, obtained by the Miami Herald, shows a masked officer speaking to a Black woman in a terminal on Wednesday, when she becomes irate and begins taunting him. “You acting like you white when you really Black…what you want to do?” the woman says.
The unmasked woman steps up to the man, putting her face right in his before he strikes her in the face. “She headbutted me,” he says as the officers rush in to handcuff her.
Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo Ramirez, in a series of tweets on Wednesday night, said he has asked Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to investigate the use of force.
“I am shocked and angered by a body cam video that i just saw involving one of our officers. I’ve immediately initiated an investigation and ordered that the involved officers be relieved of duty,” Ramirez tweeted.
The video surfaced as protests across the country have erupted over police brutality, sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. Floyd died after a Minneapolis officer pressed a knee on his neck; the officer was later charged with murder.
In South Florida, two police officers have been arrested in battery cases since the protests emerged.
Ex-Miami Gardens police officer Jordy Martel was charged with battery last week after he put his knee on the neck of a woman and shot her twice with a Taser stun gun, in an incident that happened in January. On Tuesday, Fort Lauderdale Officer Steven Pohorence was charged with battery for shoving a kneeling woman to the ground during a protest.
The airport incident happened Wednesday. One law enforcement source said the woman was complaining loudly about a missed or delayed flight. A ticket agent called police. The officer showed up, the source said, and tried to calm her but the confrontation escalated after she began shouting at him.
Multiple sources identified the officer as Antonio Clemente Rodriguez, a Black officer of Puerto Rican heritage. He is stationed at the airport. The identity of the woman — and what charges she faces — were not immediately known Wednesday. The video, shot off a computer or TV screen, began circulating Wednesday among law enforcement and was made public by documentary film director and activist Billy Corben.
The president of the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association said the officer hit her with an “open-hand slap,” sometimes called a “diversionary strike.”
“Clearly she was the aggressor. She was being asked to leave. She’s being belligerent and she pushes her face right into his face,” said PBA President Steadman Stahl.
The recent protests over police brutality have been particularly sensitive for Black police officers, who have grappled with their own experiences of racism and their devotion to the job. At South Florida protests, many Black officers have been taunted as “sellouts” and “traitors.”
“We went from heroes to villains in a matter of 24 hours at one point,” one Black officer, a member of the Progressive Officers Club, told the Miami Herald last month. “The Blue Angels were doing flyovers for first responders. Now, people are looking at you funny.”
Miami Herald staff writer Devoun Cetoute contributed to this report.