Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Miami Beach Police Disciplined for False Charges Against Gay Tourist Who Turned Them In For Beating

Flamingo Park Area of Miami Beach

Miami Beach, FL – “What is happening in Miami Beach?” —  Miami Herald reader Jeffrey Garcia questioned Miami Beach Police Chief  Carlos Noriega after reports that two MBPD officers falsely charged a gay tourist.  The officers were apparently unaware that the tourist was speaking on his cellphone to the 911 line to report them for beating a man on the street.  The large majority of the abusive arrest, shouts by the officers of anti-gay epithets, and their physical assault on gay tourist Harold Strickland were all recorded for the world to hear.  Once they realized the tourist was reporting them, they allegedly made up charges against him that have now been dropped. Under pressure from the ACLU of Florida, both MBPD Officers Frankly Forte and Elliot Hazzi have been put on desk duty while the investigation against them proceeds.  The Chief’s assurances of good relations with the Miami Beach LGBT community to the contrary, a flurry of reports are emerging that Miami, Miami Beach, South Beach, and other Dade County locales once considered gay Meccas are no longer safe for queer folk.  The made up charges against Mr. Strickland are the most recent example.  According to Miami Herald reports, Mr. Strickland observed two men beating a person at about 1 a.m. on March 13, 2009 in the Flamingo Park area of Miami Beach.  As Steve Rothaus of the Herald reports, “Strickland called 911 when he saw a man being beaten by two men just outside the park. ‘I saw a guy running and then I saw two, what looked like undercover cops running. And they pushed this guy down on the ground, the one cop did, and the other cop came up as if he was kicking a football … and kicked the guy in the head,” Strickland told a dispatcher during a recorded phone call to 911.”  Rothaus continues his report, “For nearly five minutes, he talked to the dispatcher, who encouraged him to get closer for more detail ‘if it doesn’t put you in any danger.’ A few seconds later, Strickland told the dispatcher: “Now they’re coming after me!””  The officers, Forte and Hazzi, demanded to know what Mr. Strickland was doing.  According to a spokesperson for the ACLU,they then grabbed his cellphone away from him and said, “We know what you’re doing here. We’re sick of all the f—ing fags in the neighborhood.”  Pushing him to the ground, they bound Mr. Strickland’s hands and proceeded to kick and beat him, hurling anti-gay slurs at him.  The ACLU report continues, “While Strickland was on the ground, the officers continued to spew anti-gay epithets. They called him a ‘f—ing fag’ and told him he was going to ‘get it good in jail.”’  Though Mr. Strickland tried to tell the officers about his call to 911, they would not listen.  They arrested him on prowling-and-loitering charges.  A half hour later, Officer Forte in his arrest report charged Mr. Strickland with breaking into six cars in the area.  In a hearing the next morning, a judge advised Mr. Strickland that he would get out of jail quicker if he would plead guilty to misdemeanor charges.  He did, but as soon as he was free, he called the ACLU, and changed his plea to not guilty.  The State Attorney General’s Office has dropped all charges against Mr. Strickland, as well as loitering and resisting arrest charges against Mr. Oscar Mendoza, the man Mr. Strickland saw Officers Forte and Hazzi beat near Flamingo Park.  The ACLU has informed the mayor of Miami Beach that they will sue both the offending officers and the city for the incident.  Robert F. Rosenwald Jr., director of the ACLU Florida’s Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender Advocacy Project, told the Herald’s Steve Rothaus, “This is an issue that we have hoped to address for a long time. Miami Beach Police have for a long time harassed gay men around Flamingo Park without probable cause.”

February 16, 2010 - Posted by | ACLU, Anglo Americans, Beatings and battery, Blame the victim, Florida, gay men, harassment, Heterosexism and homophobia, Latino and Latina Americans, Law and Order, police brutality, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Stomping and Kicking Violence | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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