Video Contradicts Account Of Miami Police Officer Who Charged Witness Filming An Arrest

screen_shot_2014-04-29_at_21.45.15.siWe have been following the continuing abuse of citizens who are detained or arrested for filming police in public. (For prior columns, click here and here). Despite consistent rulings upholding the right of citizens to film police in public, these abuses continue. There is a new case out of Miami of a citizen, freelance disc jockey Lazaro Estrada, who was arrested for obstruction of justice despite the fact that witnesses say that he was merely taping an arrest at a store.

Estrada was spinning records at a store promotion when Miami-Dade Ofc. Michael Valdez reportedly arrived at the store to arrest owner Andre Trigiano on outstanding misdemeanor traffic charges. Estrada pulled out his iPhone and the video shows the officer standing on the sidewalk about twenty feet away holding Trigiano. He gestures for Estrada to move back and Estrada appears to comply. He goes back into the store but is later pulled out by other officers. Valdez reportedly claims in the arrest report that Estrada refused to comply with orders to back off. Valdez is shown confronting Estrada and saying that the arrestee was armed (he had a permit).

In his police report, Valdez states that “I felt threatened by his presence.” The video does not suggest any reasonable basis to claim such a threat or that Estrada failed to obey the officer’s orders.

The video contradiction of the police account is all too familiar on this blog. Of course, in Dallas, Dallas Police Chief David Brown revealed a new policy that would require officers involved in a shooting to wait 72 hours before making a statement. The policy came after a scandal where a surveillance video showed one of Brown’s officers shooting a mentally ill suspect for no apparent reason. The video contradicted the officer’s testimony and undermined the charge against the victim. Brown’s solution was not greater disciplining and monitoring of officers but to impose a delay to allow officers to craft their statements. I would have thought that such a proposal would have resulted in the termination of Brown but he continues to run a major police department.

The question is how this officer’s report and arrest will be addressed if this video is found to be an accurate perspective of the events. Judging from the video alone, the arrest appear bogus and the representations made in the report appear facially untrue. In the past, we have seen charges dropped but no discipline for officers. The result is that officers can continue to punish citizens by forcing them to go to jail, secure counsel, and take other steps to get the charges dropped. That can create an obvious chilling effect on citizen’s engaging in this protected activity.

The department has not responded to media inquiries so we do not have the officer’s response to the content of this video.

Source: CBS

36 thoughts on “Video Contradicts Account Of Miami Police Officer Who Charged Witness Filming An Arrest”

  1. There were several people outside besides the two women but the only one the cop was concerned about was the one recording. After he got reinforcements the cops started shouting obscenities to the man that was handcuffed. If it were a legitimate arrest, why did they not just put him in a car, take him to jail, and do the paperwork? The hysterical woman needed to STFU.

  2. Issac, the intent of the prson recording or observing is irrelevant. Law enforcement has no basis for arresting people who engage in that conduct. If the person is committing a crime as well as recording or observing, an arrest can be made. However, officers who find people engaging in the lawful business of recording officers in the line of duty to be “nuisances” requiring some response are unsuited to the job.

  3. The concerns of the motorcycle cop who arrested the disc jockey at the end of the tape refer to the disc jockey’s intrusion into the arrest of the owner before the tape started. There is no taping of such intrusion as the camera man is the disc jockey inside the store. So, the question is, did the disc jockey respond incorrectly to the officer’s arresting of the shop owner?

    This is impossible to say by viewing this video. What is very apparent is that between the two women, one of which seems emotionally unstable, and the disc jockey, there was an attempt to ‘catch the cops’. This must tick of a cop.

    In my opinion, given the tape, the disc jockey, if he interfered in the arrest, should be taken in. One thing is apparent, however, if citizens are going to use their rights to video and observe with the intent on being a nuisance then they should be treated as a nuisance. I didn’t see the cops do any thing wrong. There was no beating or mistreating of the shop owner.


  4. Hasn’t this story run weekly for the past several months. Dirty cop covers up. Arrests videographer. Charges dismissed. Dirty cop collects paycheck and goes on to abuse another citizen

  5. Hi I have followed this blog for over a year now and enjoy it very much. Thank-you all. Perhaps someone can answer a a question. In the case above or simailar case where an officer falsifies a report — a crime– and no subsequent arrest is made, could a citizens arrest be made? and what would that look like?

    1. Mike, I would not recommend it. Such a citizen arrest would likely result in a citizen being arrested. There are civil lawsuits however that can be filed. As for criminal charges, it remains the domain of the prosecutors and yes the police.

  6. A video of a cop doing a good deed will end up on the nightly news. A video of a cop committing a crime is illegal to record. The inmates have taken over the asylum. How did this get by the SCOTUS (he asked rhetorically)?

  7. While the cops are OTT, I have to observe that Estrada strikes me as complete pain in the ass. His presence is clearly provocative – provocative of emotional screaming fits , which are *indirectly* provocative to the cop.

    It is not as simple as him going out, and then going back inside when the cop tells him to back off.
    Some woman is having hysterics throughtout.
    Each of the three times that Estrada is outside, she is screaming at him to go back in. She is pleading with him – so a ‘will he / won’t he’ atmosphere ensues.
    All this emotion! Is he going to start interfering? – might arise in an observer’s mind.

    I have to say that if I were a cop conducting an arrest I would be keeping a very close eye on the situation around Estrada and teh screaming woman.

    At the beginning of the video, the woman is repeatedly shouting “Get inside please”. The cop is telling him to back off, the woman continues screaming at him.
    At about 30 seconds after the start he goes inside. It’s been loud drama all the way.
    2:15, he’s out the door again.He stays by the door, but you hear the wind noise.
    2:45, she’s shouting at him again
    3:00, he’s inside again
    4:50, he’s got the door pushed open outwards, but filming though the glass
    5:20, he’s starting to move out
    5:23, she’s shoulting at him “Please, for the love of ….”
    5:25, he’s inside again

    From the cop’s perception, Estrada has been out three times. Each time, there is a screaming fit. This is the sort of emotional situation that can rapidly escalate. Calling for backup would be sensible.
    I get the impression that the screaming woman is partner to the arrestee, which could be influencing the arrestee – a big guy – to become difficult.

    The amount of backup ariving is a cop convention, and for some strange reason does not include even one SWAT team.

    The cop should have simply finished up the arrest – which was taking enough time to call for coffee-breaks.
    Going in after Estrada after he has been inside without dramatics assauting the cop’s ear for the pprevious 2.5 minutes is simply OTT butt-hurt.

    As an aside….
    The cop appears to be solo until 3 minutes in – when the cop cars arrive.
    He’s on his radio about 1:49 – maybe calling up help?
    The motor bike appears to his.
    Hello? He arrived alone on a motorbike to make an arrest?

  8. Was the video taken from a smart phone?

    Obama Administration Argues Cell Phone Searches to Court

    In the latest expansion of the national security state, the Obama administration has brought to the Supreme Court the argument that anyone’s cell phone is subject to search and seizure without first obtaining search warrants.
    The Supreme Court case Riley V. California is being decided upon under the context of the increasing government surveillance culture and has added yet another nail in the coffin of individual privacy.

    Justice Kennedy echoed this sentiment, saying that criminals have utilized cell phones to facilitate crimes, making criminals “more dangerous, more sophisticated, more elusive with cell phones.”

  9. “I felt threatened” is maybe the most overused excuse in many venues.

  10. Police officers don’t care that what they are doing is wrong or that the charges may be dropped, they are hoping that the citizen will lose his job or better yet get assaulted in jail or better yet react so that they can arrest him for resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer. They are using their absolute power to take away your freedom even if its only for a few hours or a day. Our police have no respect for the law or citizens.

  11. At this stage, an officer who claims to have felt threatened when there is no reasonable basis should be the subject of proceedings for removal. Given the leeway officers have to use deadly force in the face of a perceived threat, an inability to tell the difference between conduct reasonably perceived as a threat and conduct that isn’t suggests the officer is unsuited to the job at a minimum.

  12. In this case it would be helpful to know what happened before the recording began. But if the only pertinent information was what we saw in the video, I don’t see a basis for an obstructing arrest on the videographer.

  13. I read about this a day or two ago. Estrada went back inside the store, recording video through the window. The police came inside the store and arrested him for “obstruction?” If there had been a security video system catching the action, would that have been obstruction too?

    There are some officers who don’t seem to understand that whether they know it or not, there is almost always going to be a camera somewhere. Perhaps like the one reviewed in the video below.

    1. Otteray – first didn’t you used to be Chuck Stanley? second the cops always want video footage if they are looking for a criminal, not if they are the criminal. third, thanks for the review.

  14. Aren’t the police paid by the taxpayers? Why don’t they treat the citizens better then?

  15. I think at this point officers know that this constitutes harassment. We are beyond the point of ‘opps my mistake.”

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