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. ok well, let me clarify what happened before the whole video… as I was djing at the store a motorcycle rolled into the the parking lot which was the officer so I thought it was a customer which I decided to play the song bad boys as a joke. I guess the officer was in a bad mood already, so he asked who’s motorcycle is this andre then claimed it was his. the officer then ask andre to stand up and to walk with him. so andre did as soon as they reach the door all the way to the cop’s motorcycle. they had an exchange of words (apparently it was because andre is a weapon concealed permit holder and had his gun at the time on him) so as the officer retrieved the gun, he then threw andre to the ground, handcuffed him and that when I literally got up and went outside to record, as I go outside andre says get my wife, which is the girl in blue. I tell her that her husband is calling and that was fine the officer never told me anything. that’s when I decided to re pull out my phone and actually record before the officer does anything stupid. (this area isn’t the best area “the ghetto”) so I was afraid that andre was going to get beat up by this officer. then the video explains itself. as for the officer what you didn’t khow is the officer was out of jurisdiction and off duty on a personal vendetta due to claims that andre got away on his motorcycle 3 weeks prior, (rumors have it that the force was making jokes about officer valdez “another one got away huh?”) so he is considered a hot head… I step outside 3 times no… only once the other 2 times I opened the door but never stepped out. my personal reasons was to get his wife inside because she is pregent number 2 to speak to the second owner which was on a lunch brake, with a fellow off duty officer (from our area) seen on the video (guy in blue with officer wearing a hat and uniform on the side) I have no reason to lie about this situation. honestly like ive stated before the video doesn’t lie. look at the aggressive form of the major screaming at andre, right after that then why did my arresting officer look back said something to the officers they quickly composed themselves and went to go grab me from the store? why was I a threat when there’s tons of people outside… yet they picked it with me because I have the camera? why didn’t the officer arrest everyone else who was even closer then I ever was? he was afraid of the camera that’s why…. when the camera shuts off they didn’t give me my phone back instead they tried to access it. luckly I had a iphone finger print reader lock on it. then the code. so they had to give it back to my friend’s who were standing in the area. but they gave it back damaged….

  2. “… unlike the person who calls him a pain in the ass. who strikes me as someone …”

    As the person who said that Estrada struck me as a pain in the ass, I can hardly complain if someone says that I strike them as ….. 🙂

    Please note that I am not asserting that the cop did nothing untoward/OTT/idiotic. I’m saying that as we don’t know what took place before the video started (and it starts in full hysterics) , then this case is not a good one as a poster-child.

    As I wrote above…
    We don’t have the start of the business. When the video starts, both the woman and Estrada are already out there. The drama is already in progress and has been ongoing for some unknown time.
    The cop is saying “There’s too many of you. There’s only one of me”. Going by his head position he is saying that at the woman. She’s making a loud fuss. She’s the flash point. Estrada’s presence is making her louder. Estrada goes inside but comes out – twice!
    Neither the cop or the woman appear to be asking him to stop recording. They are both asking him to get inside. It’s “too many” as opposed to “someone recording”.

    You probaly did not notice that, but at least you caught my “WTF” about a lone cop on a motorbike arriving with an arrest warrant.

    Could it be that the cop arrived with the intent of collecting outstanding fines and with the arrest warrant only as encouragement to pay?
    If that’s what hapened, then there is an element of bargaining going on. THis would drag thing out. Argument ensues. Onlookers are maybe contributing to the argument. Out to the road. DJ loses most of his audience. Drama! Then the video starts.
    It’s not a simple case of someone standing sufficiently off and “merely taping an arrest”. It’s confrontational and with screaming fits by the woman at the person recording.

    Both ‘sides’ could have handled it better.

  3. estrada is only making it worse in her eyes because the cop doesnt want to be filmed. so please with the bs that is being spewed

    the woman came out crying and hysterical in the first place. anyone with common sense would first ask why is a motorcycle cop arriving alone at a store in the middle of a sales production to make an arrest ALONE? EXACTLY WHERE WAS THE OWNER SUPPOSED TO RIDE? and i definitely would like to know what the misdemeanor traffic charges stemmed from in the first place.

    and estrada strikes me as someone willing to fight for injustice unlike the person who calls him a pain in the ass. who strikes me as someone willing to lie down for anything as long as it doesnt cause him/her any pain….

    what a bunch of wimps the cell phone and microwaves have produced

  4. Shorter arresting officer:
    “I have the gun. I have the badge. I am the law. Capeesh?”

  5. SlingTrebuchet
    Yes, an arrest warrant delivered on motor bike…
    … Because the arrestee was supposed to ride shotgun?

  6. Yep,
    I would say that attempting to arrest the security camera for not complying and obstruction of justice would be a tough sell to a judge. However, flesh and blood attached to a camera is an easier ‘sell’.

  7. With what we have from that video, this is not a good case to use as a poster-child for cop-recording debate.

    We don’t have the start of the business.
    The video opens with the woman shouting at him to go inside. Clearly then, as far as she is concerned Estrada is causing a significant problem.
    “You’re making it worse” she says. “Please……”

    We don’t know what happened that caused the woman to associate Estrada with “making it worse”.
    It might have been as simple as the cop asking Estrada to back off.
    It might have been that Estrada was up close and interfering to begin with. If you listen to his commentaries while inside, he certainly seems exercised.

    Standing in the cop’s shoes, I would say that the ‘alert state’ was not what was or what might be in Estrada’s hand. It is that his presence was inflaming the situation as it was causing the woman to have hysterics.

    He’s out there three times.
    Each time, we have hysterics – that are purely about his presence

    This is not to say that the cop and cops were not OTT in coming in after Estrada. He was inside and stying inside before the other cops arrived. He had been out of the first cop’s hair for 2.5 minutes by the time the cops came inside.
    However, as I said above, Estrada strikes me as being a total pain in the ass.
    He was foolish to come out the second time.
    He was dumb as ***k to come out the third time.

    If he wanted to record in that particular situation, he should have asked someone to try to get the woman to come and stay inside while he went out.
    Although…. that would probably have caused even greater hysterics.

    The WTF about the whole business for me is that the cop appears to have arrived on his own with an arrest warrant ——- on a motorbike!
    Say it ain’t so!

  8. SL, his camera was already out and occupying his hand. That would make him less of a threat than those permitted to remain closer to the area of the arrest who had completely empty hands. Each one of them could have easily pulled out either a gun or a camera, but the officer did not object to them remaining where they were.

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

  10. I see no falsification by the officer here. Had he remained IN the store, then perhaps, but each time he came out of the store, that is a provocation.
    Police officers do not know the intention of people watching. He could have easily pulled out a gun as a camera in approaching the officer.
    As to “why” he was handcuffed, that is standard procedure for any arrest, even on traffic violations.

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