Sep 27, 2022 - News

Miami Beach nears settlement in excessive force case

A screen shot from a surveillance video shows a man filming a group of police.

Surveillance footage shows a New York tourist catching Miami Beach police on video as they kick a handcuffed suspect. Screenshot courtesy of Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office

Miami Beach is proposing to pay $119,000 to settle allegations of excessive force stemming from a July 2021 incident in which officers were captured on body camera and surveillance footage beating a South Beach tourist who was recording them on video.

Catch up fast: Five officers were arrested last year on charges they used excessive force during the arrest of two Black men at the Royal Palm Hotel in South Beach.

  • The incident started when police arrested Dalonta Crudup for allegedly striking an officer with his scooter and evading police. While Crudup was handcuffed, officers kicked him and slammed his head against the ground.
  • Khalid Vaughn, of New York, was recording the interaction on his cellphone when police then attacked and arrested him.
  • Another bystander, Sharif Cobb, was later arrested as he was recording police after Vaughn's arrest. He settled with the city for $65,000, his attorney told Axios.
  • One officer arrested pleaded guilty last July and retired, the Miami Herald reported. The other four remain suspended without pay, according to the city.

Between the lines: The arrests renewed scrutiny over how Miami Beach police treat Black tourists.

  • Vaughn and Cobb were arrested under a local law prohibiting bystanders from standing within 20 feet of officers with the "intent to impede, provoke or harass" them. Those charges were dropped.
  • After the incident, police suspended enforcement of the law to conduct additional officer training.

The latest: Miami Beach commissioners will vote Wednesday whether to authorize the settlement payment in Vaughn's lawsuit.

  • In a memo to the commission, city attorney Rafael Paz recommends approving the settlement to avoid further legal costs.

What they're saying: "I believe the City of Miami Beach recognized its responsibility for what occurred. The evidence against the officers came mainly from their own body-worn cameras," David Frankel, the attorney representing Vaughn and Cobb, wrote in an emailed statement to Axios.

  • Frankel added that his clients hope city officials will "make significant changes to prevent anything like this from occurring in the future."

Of note: Commissioners will also vote Wednesday on whether to authorize a $130,000 settlement in a separate excessive force case against Miami Beach officers.

  • In his lawsuit, plaintiff Cody Wade said police beat him unconscious and dragged him across the street during an arrest outside a nightclub in 2019.
  • In a memo recommending the settlement, Paz said the city "wishes to avoid the expense, delay, and uncertainty of lengthy litigation and appeals."

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