FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Florida police officers can be heard laughing and celebrating after shooting protesters with rubber bullets during a May protest against police brutality, according to newly released body camera footage.
In response to a story by the Miami Herald, Fort Lauderdale police posted a video on its official YouTube channel Wednesday taken from the body camera of Detective Zachary Baro, who was leading the department’s SWAT team unit on May 31. (Warning: Video contains graphic content.) It was less than a week after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, which sparked protests through the U.S.
At one point in the video, Baro can be heard saying, “Beat it” and using a profanity, after officers shot less lethal projectiles.
LaToya Ratlieff was shot in the face during what had been a largely peaceful protest, suffering a fractured skull and requiring 20 stitches. She couldn’t eat for a week and still has trouble seeing out of one eye that is filled with blood.
She has asked to sit down with the police department to discuss ways to change the system and make sure there’s accountability going forward.
“I’m heartbroken. We deserve better,” she said in response to the video late Wednesday night.
A Fort Lauderdale police officer was charged for an incident during that same protest after video showed he pushed a kneeling woman to the ground. Witnesses said the peaceful gathering turned after that as angry protesters responded by throwing bottles. The officer’s colleagues quickly pushed him away from the woman and down the street.
During another section of the video, an officer approaches Baro behind the police line and asks if his body camera is off. After Baro replies incorrectly that his camera is in stand-by mode and not recording, the two officers begin laughing and joking about the people they had shot with rubber bullets.
Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione said in a statement that the department was conducting an exhaustive review of nearly 8,000 minutes of body camera footage, with a report to be completed within the next month.
“The entire video clearly demonstrates our officers were under attack by a group of people who chose to use violence instead of peace to antagonize the situation,” Maglione said. “Although the language is extreme, and offensive to some, our officers were dealing with the chaos of a developing situation.”
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