Fort Lauderdale, FL- Three criminal charges were filed against Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Victor Ramirez late last week stemming from a February incident in which Ramirez was caught on video throwing a homeless man to the ground and slapping him across the face.
Ramirez faces two misdemeanor charges of battery and one charge on falsifying records, and has been “relieved of duty without pay.”
On February 22nd, 2015, Ramirez reportedly approached a homeless man, Bruce Laclair, at the Broward County Transit’s Downtown Bus Terminal,where Laclair had allegedly been sleeping. According to the Broward-Palm Beach New Times, Ramirez wrote in his arrest report that he “saw the defendant later identified as Laclair sleeping on a bus bench.”
“I asked him to wake up and to go somewhere else. Laclair looked at me and said “f-ck you leave me alone.” I told Laclair that he had to leave. After several minutes, Laclair got up from the bench and began to walk towards the other side of the terminal. I gave Laclair plenty of time to leave; I made it clear to Laclair that he had to leave and that he would be arrested if he didn’t. After ignoring me, I grabbed Laclair and arrested him for trespassing after warning,” Ramirez wrote.
While Ramirez chose not to disclose the physical altercation in his arrest report, a cell phone video recorded by a nearby witness at the scene revealed that Ramirez shoved Laclair to the ground and struck him across the face (video below contains graphic language):
According to the Sun Sentinel, an April 2 complaint affidavit stated that “Victor Ramirez misrepresented the facts regarding the altercation and/or conversation between the defendant and the victim.”
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler said that Ramirez “will now be relieved from duty without pay until those charges are resolved. He will not be working for the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department.”
Mike Dutko, the defense attorney representing Ramirez, reportedly implied that the video did not thoroughly document the encounter in its entirety. “I certainly understand, I’m well aware that what is depicted in the video is disturbing to people,” Dutko said. “I would only caution people to reserve judgment until all of the facts about the officer’s conduct with this citizen have been presented.”
“It was [Ramirez’s] second encounter with the same citizen under identical circumstances,” Dutko said. “There was reason for him to be concerned about this citizen reaching for him. But we will deal with that in time.”
The Broward-Palm Beach New Times opined last month that an 87-page internal affairs file showed that “a pattern has emerged over his nine-year career: hitting, slamming, dropping, and sometimes even tasering people while working off-duty security around Fort Lauderdale” beginning in 2008.
“Not including the most recent slap, Ramirez has ten documented use-of-force incidents while off-duty with eight of them occurring at Broward Central Terminal – the same place he slapped 58-year-old Bruce LaClair in the viral video,” the New Times reported.
Mayor Seiler maintained that 99% of police officers are doing their job. “I think they’re competent, I think they’re professional but in every group there are a few individuals who may do something that’s not up to par, they’re a few individuals that may do something that offends us,” Seiler said, according to CBS Miami.
Ramirez has a court hearing, for the three charges related to the February 22nd incident, scheduled for May 18th.