A Miami-Dade police officer has been fired after an incident caught on body cam showed him hitting a woman who was yelling at him at Miami International Airport.
“As a result of an administrative investigation into the officer’s conduct during this incident; it is my intent to proceed with the termination of the involved officer’s employment with the Miami-Dade Police Department. The administrative process to proceed with termination has been initiated," Miami-Dade Police Director Freddy Ramirez said. "The MDPD holds itself accountable for its actions, and this is just another example of our commitment to do just that.”
In the video, which was posted on Twitter by South Florida filmmaker Billy Corben, shows Officer Antonio Rodriguez, who was wearing a face mask, speaking to a Black woman inside an airport terminal on Wednesday.
The woman, who was not wearing a face mask, becomes irate, saying, “You acting like you white when you really Black...what you want to do?” She approaches the officer, and puts her face right next to his, the video shows. The officer then punches her in the face.
“She headbutted me,” the officer says as says as other officers rush in to handcuff her.
“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 said in a series of tweets on Wednesday night.
Ramirez said he has asked Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle to investigate the use of force.
"Like so many in our community, I am angered when I see abusive or improper conduct by a police officer," Fernandez Rundle said in a statement Thursday. "I have spoken to MDPD Director Ramirez about this incident and have my Public Corruption prosecutors gathering the body camera evidence and witness/victim testimony at this very moment."
The Miami Herald reported that the woman was loudly complaining about a missed or delayed flight and a ticket agent called police. The officer arrived and began talking to the woman but the confrontation escalated when she began shouting at him, the newspaper report said.
Steadman Stahl, president of the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association, told the newspaper the officer hit the woman with an “open-hand slap,” which is also called 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,” Stahl said.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the incident was "appalling" in a tweet Wednesday night.
"It’s excessive use of force and unnecessary. That’s NOT what our @MiamiDadePD are trained to do," the tweet read, in part.
It is the latest incident involving police officers in South Florida since protests over police brutality began across the nation following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May. A Minneapolis officer was later charged with murder after pressing a knee into Floyd's neck during an arrest.
In Fort Lauderdale, newly released body camera footage shows police officers laughing and celebrating after shooting protesters with rubber bullets during a May protest against police brutality.
Fort Lauderdale police posted a video on its official YouTube channel Wednesday taken from the body camera of Detective Zachary Baro, who was leading the department’s SWAT team unit on May 31.
At one point in the video, Baro can be heard saying, “Beat it” and using a profanity, after officers shot less lethal projectiles.
Last week, ex-Miami Gardens police officer Jordy Martel was charged with battery after putting his knee on the neck of a woman and shooting her twice with a stun gun during an incident in January. And in Fort Lauderdale, Officer Steven Pohorence was charged with battery for shoving a kneeling woman to the ground during a protest.