MIAMI, FL– Police are actively searching for a suspect who they say attacked an officer last month during a protest against racial injustice near Bayfront Park in downtown Miami.
According to local10, Officer Kiara Delva, who is the spokeswoman for the Miami Police Department said that an officer was arresting another subject during the June 10th protest on Biscayne Boulevard and Northeast Fourth Street when a different person ran up to the officer while he was on the ground and struck him in the head with a skateboard. He then fled the scene.
— Miami PD (@MiamiPD) July 16, 2020
According to Delva, the officer suffered head pains following the incident. During that protest, seven people were arrested, some who also assaulted officers while the officers were trying to arrest a group of people for vandalizing the Christopher Columbus and Juan Ponce De Leon statues.
Authorities said that a police vehicle was also damaged during the June 10th protests and that three people were wanted for the vandalism of the police car.
According to Officer Micahel Vega:
“We gave the order, officers went in, arrested these three people, however, the crowd then turned on us.”
Police are also searching for another individual who is accused of attacking a police officer during the same protest.
After the protest on June 10th, the Miami Police Department issued a statement saying:
“They support peaceful protests, but there will be zero tolerance for those who hide behind the peaceful protesters to incite riots, damage property, and hurt members of the public or our officers.”
— Miami PD (@MiamiPD) July 16, 2020
Delva said in a statement:
“Anyone with information, we’re urging you to contact us with more information on these individuals. As we mentioned before, we have a zero tolerance for individuals who hide behind peaceful protests to incite riots or hurt individuals of the community, the general public or our officers.”
According to 7News, cameras captured the protesters during the confrontation and both men police are searching for were caught on video. Both men could be seen in the distance following a scuffle with officers.
Police said the man wearing the white t-shirt hit one of their officers on the ground who was arresting someone and when a sergeant got out of a patrol car to arrest someone for breaking his windshield; the man in the black shirt swung his skateboard at him.
Authorities said that a third individual, since identified as Jeffrey Lopez-Espinal, also hit a sergeant with his skateboard on the head.
Lopez-Espinal was arrested on Tuesday and appeared before a judge on bond court on Wednesday. He has been charged with aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer.
According to NBC Miami, police were able to identify Lopez-Espinal as a suspect from the video from the scene. His brother and work manager were also able to identify him from photos of the incident.
Lopez-Espinal remained behind bars on a $10,000 bond.
Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Mindy Glazer said that Lopez-Espinal:
“Admitted to striking Sgt. Bellfort, stating, ‘I snapped and hit him with the tip of my skateboard.”
Anyone with information about the identity of the other man accused of assaulting an officer with a skateboard is asked to call Detective P. Chery at 305-603-6415. Information can also be emailed to [email protected].
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That’s not the only Florida attack on police officers. Here’s Law Enforcement Today’s recent report on another one.
Early Thursday morning, police in Atlantic Beach were responding to calls of a man in the parking lot of a Panera Bread. That call led to an officer being beaten to unconsciousness and a suspect being shot.
When the first officer arrived on the scene, he and the suspect engaged physical altercation. Before additional officer were able to arrive on the scene, the suspect had knocked the officer unconscious.
Responding officers arrived on scene to find the man allegedly stomping on the first officer in the head while he was out cold on the ground. The second officer gave verbal commands, which the assailant originally followed.
A suspect violently attacked an Atlantic Beach police officer following a disturbance outside a Panera restaurant early Thursday, prompting a backup officer to shoot him after he came at him as well, according to interim Chief Victor Gualillo: https://t.co/3h9Q2zKlL6
— Florida Times-Union (@jaxdotcom) July 16, 2020
As the wounded cop lay on the ground “twitching and bleeding,” the suspect became combative and tried to get up. Another officer told him to stay down on the ground.
Interim Chief Victor Gualillo said that the suspect “said something like ‘you’re going to have to kill me.'”
The officer backed up , keeping space between himself and the suspect. He continued giving verbal commands for the man to stop.
According to Jacksonville.com:
“Instead he said something like ‘You’re going to have to kill me,’ Gualillo said. The officer backed up to give him some space and continued to order him to stop. Then the suspect further engaged him.
“‘That suspect closed distance on our officer, actually tried to grab that officer’s gun, and the officer had no choice at that point but to fire one round to try and stop that person from attacking him,’ Gualillo said.
“The suspect fell to the ground but continued ‘to be combative,’ the chief said. The officer told him to stay down, ‘we are trying to help you.’ He stayed down but was still being combative as rescue personnel began treating him.”
Gualillo said that he had visited the officer at the hospital and he was expected to make a full recovery, but also said “it may be a while before he can come back to work.”
UPDATE: Police say an Atlantic Beach officer was beaten unconscious outside a Panera Bread. He is expected to recover but has serious injuries to his head and face: https://t.co/67zQP9AuPf pic.twitter.com/tfEPWya94q
— ActionNewsJax (@ActionNewsJax) July 16, 2020
No names were released of the officers or the suspect.
The injured officer joined the department 18 months ago after having been with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s office for 27 years. He reportedly came out of retirement to join the Atlantic Beach Department.
The other officer is on administrative leave pending the investigation, as is typical of an incident like this. He has been with the department for 3 years. This department does not have body-worn cameras.
“This is a terrible thing to have happen in Atlantic Beach. We are typically a quiet community and we have not had an officer-involved shooting in over 20 years.”
The city’s mayor, Ellen Glasser, is a retired FBI agent.
“I hold our police department in the highest regard. I ’m sure this is a deep, deep wound for them, just listening to the description. Can you imagine, rolling up and seeing an officer who is unconscious, being pummeled?
“We have a culture, a very tight culture in Atlantic Beach, and that culture includes accountability. With the unrest in our country, police have been challenged. They’re social workers and police officers and monitors of personal behavior. The expectations for them are extremely high, almost an impossible expectation.”
Glasser also spoke to the body cameras, saying that the city has budgeted for them, but do not yet have the platform in place.
And to the news of the attack on an officer and the subsequent shooting, she added:
“I have been getting phone calls all morning from people offering their support and their prayers, starting with the mayors of the other two beach cities. It’s the whole Beaches community that’s affected.”
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