Man With Down Syndrome in Clash With Cops

Family "shocked" after confrontation with Miami-Dade Police.

By Brian Hamacher
|  Saturday, Sep 17, 2011  |  Updated 12:06 AM EDT
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Man With Down Syndrome in Clash With Cops

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The attorney for a man with Down Syndrome who was injured in a confrontation with Miami-Dade Police says his family is "shocked."

The attorney for a man with Down Syndrome who was badly injured after a confrontation with Miami-Dade Police Saturday night says his family is shocked over what they say was an unnecessary attack.

"The family is very upset and really shocked, to be honest," attorney Philip Gold said Wednesday. "They can't believe that this could have happened, let alone to their their son who is an innocent, sweet individual with Down syndrome."

Gilberto Powell, 22, was stopped by officers in the area of Southwest 111th Place and Southwest 138th Street around 9:30 p.m. Saturday, according to a Miami-Dade Police report.

The report said officers spotted a bulge in Powell's waist band and when they tried to pat him down, he tried to flee. Police say Powell broke free as officers tried to place him in handcuffs, hitting his forehead on the ground.

Powell hit one of the officers in the chest and continued to struggle until one of the officers "struck [Powell] in the left side of his face with an open hand in an attempt to subdue him," the report said.

After Powell was finally handcuffed and questioned, the officers realized he was "mentally challenged, was not capable of understanding our commands, and that the bulge in his waistband was a colostomy bag," the report said.

Miami-Dade Police issued a statement Wednesday, saying they're still investigating the incident.

"The Miami-Dade Police Department continues to investigate the incident involving Mr. Gilberto Powell," the statement read. "The integrity of the investigation and successful resolution of this case continues to remain our highest priority. As a result, the investigation remains active and ongoing; therefore, we cannot provide additional information at this time."

But Gold says the police report is inaccurate and Powell's family is outraged. Gold said Powell claims he didn't hit any of the officers and was just trying to go home.

"He's a really nice kid, he wouldn't hurt a fly," Gold said. "Gilberto says he didn't do anything wrong, he just wanted to go home." 

Gold said Powell and other witnesses claim police body slammed him to the ground, bloodying his face and eye and causing contusions to his head. The injury to his eye may still require surgery, Gold said.

Even worse, Gold claims Powell's colostomy bag was "ripped right off his body."

In addition to the physical injuries, Gold says Powell has suffered mentally.

"The trauma of the whole thing, being accosted and beaten by the police, this kind of experience lives with you forever," Gold said.

Gold also claims the officers should have known Powell has special needs immediately.

If you just look at Gilberto, he 5-foot-3, 130 pounds with Down Syndrome, it's 100 percent obvious he has Down Syndrome," he said. It's impossible to believe [the police's story] if you hear one word out of Gilberto's mouth."

Gold said he hasn't ruled out a lawsuit.

"My understanding is that the officer that battered my client is working for the force, didn't get suspended or anything," he said. "We would like to speak with the department, sit down with the department and talk about how they can make this better for my client and his family."

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