Sunday, May 30, 2010

Video of police kicking deaf man in Florida arrives on YouTube

From WTSP-TV in Florida:

TAMPA, Fla. -- There are many different ways you can interpret a video posted on YouTube, showing a police officer kicking a man on the ground.

From the view of the police officers, they were using a move they are trained to use when a person is not being compliant, which they say is what was happening.

And then there's the view of the man on the ground and his attorney.

"When I look at the video, I see angry police officers that are using a high level of force," attorney Michael Maddux told 10 Connects.

The video was captured in February following the Gasparilla Knight Parade.

It shows the moments after a group of people were kicked out of Gaspar's Grotto because of an argument with bouncers.

It shows about three plain-clothed officers trying to subdue a man on the ground, who Maddux identifies as his client, 26-year-old Jacob Cowie.

A uniformed police officer is then seen walking up to the scene, trying to help and the kicking the man twice.

While the officers write in Cowie's arrest report that they used force to gain compliance after repeatedly telling him to stop resisting, Maddux says his client never heard the commands.

"All of their screams we're literally falling on deaf ears," said Maddux.

Maddux says his client is hearing impaired. He also tells us Cowie did not realize the plain-clothed officers were police officers because he was approached from behind.

Maddux claims his client was only trying to help his friend, who got into an altercation with one of the bouncers at the club and was trying to pull the bouncer away from his friend when he was approached.

"Our position is the officers failed to assess the situation, used excessive force when they could have calmed the situation down," said Maddux.

The Tampa Police Department and the Tampa City Attorney's Office is not commenting on the case because there is pending litigation and a pending Internal Affairs investigation.

The case was turned over to IA this month once the department was notified by Maddux of the video.

However, according to TPD policy, an officer can use force if it is in self-defense or to get compliance.

What you don't see on the video is the man holding his hands underneath him on the ground and refusing to comply, according to the report.

Officers wrote in the report that they "struck him with a closed right fist in both the upper shoulder. This had little effect and I then struck Cowie in the face and he moved both of his hands from under his body and toward his face."

Another officer wrote, "Cowie became more and more enraged, and continued to kick, and pull away from us. I then delivered two Drive Stuns from my department issued Taser gaining immediate compliance."

The officer seen kicking Cowie in the video wrote, "In an attempt to quickly stop the defendant from further kicking, I struck the defendant one time in the upper leg with a straight leg kick."

Maddux questions whether this would have happened if Cowie was able to hear their commands and knew they were officers.

"My client was not there to fight or argue with the police that night. The was actually there to be the sort of peacemaker for a situation that got out of hand," he said.

The disorderly conduct charge was dropped against Cowie, who Maddux says has never been in trouble with the law before.

He says his client suffered a torn rotator cuff and injuries to his face as a result of the incident.