A Miami Beach police officer who punched an unarmed Black man in the face at a restaurant almost two years ago has been cleared in the case, and is reportedly already back at work after being suspended from patrol duties during the investigation.
Video of the incident shows Officer Adriel Dominguez grabbing Lowell Poitier Jr. with his left hand while punching him in the face with his right hand.
Poitier was initially charged with resisting arrest without violence and disorderly conduct, but the charges were later dropped.
According to information obtained by the Miami Herald, Dominguez claimed that Poitier was “about to hit him,” but the video doesn’t appear to show Poitier threatening the officer physically.
Prosecutors, however, determined Dominguez used a proper amount of force given the situation.
An officer who made an unauthorized recording of body camera footage and posted it to social media was given a warning, though.
Another officer who gave a copy of the footage to his attorney and sought whistleblower protection has been hit with a 10-day suspension.
“What a disgrace. Based on the way this was handled, it’s open season on innocent people,” Michael Pizzi, an attorney for one of the punished officers, said in the Miami Herald. “It’s outrageous.”
According to the newspaper, Dominguez arrived at the restaurant at the Pelican Hotel in December 2018 after the manager called police, saying that Poitier wouldn’t put out his cigar and was bothering other customers. Poitier then reportedly swore at Dominguez before walking toward the officer and stopping. According to an arrest report, Poitier then clenched a fist as he prepared to punch the officer, but that doesn’t appear to be the case in the video. Dominguez then punched Poitier in the face, knocking him to the floor.
The demographics of Miami Beach differ a great deal from Miami-Dade County as a whole. According to the 2010 Census, 40.5% of the city’s population is non-Hispanic white—well above the 15.4% of Miami-Dade County as a whole. The proportion of the population that is Black is also significantly lower than the rest of the county. Miami Beach’s population is just 4.4% Black, compared to 18.9% for Miami-Dade County.