A Fort Lauderdale Police officer who shot a woman with a rubber bullet during last year's protest held in the wake of the George Floyd killing has been cleared of wrongdoing following an internal affairs investigation.
Det. Eliezer Ramos has been exonerated in the May 31, 2020 incident involving LaToya Ratlieff, Interim Police Chief Patrick Lynn announced at a news conference Thursday.
"The department has made every effort to learn from this incident," Lynn said. "We clearly understand this incident has deeply affected Ms. Ratlieff, our community and our very own police department."
Witnesses said the peaceful gathering took an angry turn and protesters responded by throwing bottles. Officers began firing rubber bullets, which police refer to as foam projectiles, and Ratlieff was badly injured when she was hit in the eye by one.
Lynn offered an apology to Ratlieff on behalf of the department.
"I want to express my sincerest apology for the experience you have had with our police department," he said.
Lynn said Ramos was trying to hit someone who had hurled projectiles at officers.
"The internal affairs investigation has determined that it was not Det. Ramos' intent to strike Ms. Ratlieff," Lynn said.
The protest came less than a week after the killing of Floyd in Minneapolis.
Body camera footage from a SWAT team member at the protest was later released in which officers could be heard laughing after shooting protesters with rubber bullets.
A Fort Lauderdale police officer was also charged for an incident during that same protest after video showed he pushed a kneeling woman to the ground.
Lynn said there have been multiple internal affairs investigations conducted related to the protest, with more than 600 hours of investigative time spent and the department bringing in an independent use of force expert. The investigations have looked at hundreds of hours of body cam footage, Lynn said.