Miami Officer Relieved of Duty Amid Investigation Into Video of Rough Arrest at Publix

Department investigating incident involving suspected chicken thief earlier this month

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A Miami Police officer has been relieved of duty while the department investigates his rough arrest of a homeless man who was suspected of stealing chicken at a Publix that was caught on camera, officials said Wednesday.

The incident happened the evening of April 16 at the Publix at 1776 Biscayne Boulevard.

According to an arrest report, the suspect, identified as as 58-year-old Willie Barbor, was seen grabbing a chicken from the deli and started eating it as he left the store.

When the store manager asked Barbor to pay for the chicken, Barbor said "F---you. I am homeless. I don't have any money," the report said.

The officer, who the report said was working an extra duty job at the store, was seen in a brief video posted on social media shoving Barbor and wrestling him to the ground before punching him multiple times in the head and putting handcuffs on him, the Miami Herald reported.

The officer wrote in the arrest report that Barbor was "tensing up" and pushing his hands away from the officer, so the officer "re-directed [Barbor] to the floor and gave him a couple of distractionary strikes to gain [his] compliance."

Barbor was arrested on misdemeanor theft, resisiting without violence and disorderly conduct charges, which were dropped four days after the incident, records showed.

"The Miami Police Department is aware of the incident and has launched an investigation," the department said in a statement. "The involved officer has been relieved of duty pending the outcome of the investigation."

Cellphone video shows a Miami police officer shoving, wrestling and punching a man before putting him in handcuffs at a Miami Publix on April 16, 2021. The man was suspected of stealing a chicken from the store. (COURTESY: Miami Herald)

Miami Fraternal Order of Police President Tommy Reyes supported the officer in a statement Wednesday.

"Based on the video I believe this is an over reaction from the administration of the police department," Reyes said.

Rodney Jacobs, the assistant director of Miami's civilian investigative panel that looks into cases of police misconduct, said the incident was very concerning.

"We really need to start thinking about these things as health care issues," Jacobs said. "The first thing we need to think about it is, why is that a homeless person is coming into contact with a police officer for eating deli meat?"

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