Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale Cop Who Slapped Homeless Man Found Not Guilty

A Fort Lauderdale Police officer caught on camera pushing and slapping a homeless man was found not guilty Wednesday after he took the stand in his own defense in his battery trial.

A jury cleared Victor Ramirez, who was facing three misdemeanor charges in connection with the February 2015 incident, including battery and falsification of a report.

Ramirez referred questions to his attorney after Wednesday's jury decision.

"I think this case probably is a small sample of what we've seen around the country, with various, these videos, citizens recording police interactions," defense attorney Mike Dutko said. "I'm always concerned that people are quick to draw deep and broad conclusions from a little snippet and I think this case was an example of that. This jury was a tremendous jury and they listened to everything."

Ramirez took the stand Wednesday to testify to the jury about what he said isn't seen in the video of him slapping Bruce Laclair.

"It's been a long, interesting journey and I'm glad it's over," Laclair said after the verdict was given. "I'm a little surprised but shocked, no."

The incident started when Ramirez woke up Laclair, who had been drinking and was sleeping on a bench. Laclair said he would leave but said he was going to use the bathroom first.

"I was frustrated, very frustrated, yes," Ramirez testified Wednesday.

Ramirez said he kicked Laclair out of the same bus station just two weeks before. He claims when he grabbed Laclair's arm, Laclair broke free.

"My initial reaction was that he was going to try to elbow me or try to attack me, he was in the process of a preemptive strike," Ramirez said.

That's when the push happened. The open-handed slap, which was recorded, happened a short time later.

"I wanted him to stop, this was the second time he showed aggression towards me, he just tried to turn on me I had to take action," Ramirez said.

A police expert showed jurors that the officer reacted as he was trained to do. The officer later wrote in his report that Laclair had pulled away in a "violent" manner.

But prosecutors said that's not true.

Ramirez had been relieved of duty without pay in the wake of the incident. Dutko said there's no guarantee he'll get his job back.

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