Florida State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle announced Wednesday that three cops from three different police departments are facing battery charges in separate incidents. Rundle confirmed that two of the incidents were recorded on police body cam footage.
On September 1, 2021, Opa-locka Police Captain Sergio Perez walked into Sergeant Michael Steel’s office with a Taser in his hand and told Sgt. Steel that he intended to certify the subordinate officer with the new Taser. Although Sgt. Steel repeatedly refused, Capt. Perez allegedly fired the Taser into Steel’s back as Steel began to turn away.
As a result of the discharge, two lesions formed on Steel’s back which required medical attention. An investigation from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) determined that Perez was not a certified trainer with the Taser.
Although surveillance video showed Perez entering Steel’s office, the incident was not recorded on video. On Wednesday, Rundle announced that Perez has been charged with misdemeanor battery.
In March 2020, police body cam and cellphone videos recorded Miami Gardens Police Officer Jaiver Castano kicking Miguel McKay in the face and kneeling on his neck despite the fact that McKay was subdued and offering no resistance. Police officers responded to a gas station after receiving reports of someone doing car donuts in the parking lot. McKay was the suspect’s friend and did not appear to be committing any crime when Castano attacked him.
In June 2020, Miami Gardens Police Chief Delma Noel-Pratt announced that Castano had been terminated “because the behavior was egregious and will not be tolerated at the department.” On Wednesday, Rundle confirmed that Castano is facing two counts of battery.
On July 25, 2020, Miami-Dade Police Officer Joseph Diaz responded to a 911 call about an intoxicated man named Kenny Ortega loitering in the parking lot of an apartment complex. Recorded on body cam video, Diaz allegedly grabbed Ortega’s shoulder and knocked him to the ground after Ortega insulted him.
According to Rundle, Diaz falsely alleged Ortega was excessively aggressive, screaming at the top of his lungs, stumbled into the road, and took an aggressive stance. Diaz is facing charges of official misconduct and battery.
Ortega was initially arrested and charged with disorderly intoxication and resisting an officer, but those charges were dropped.
“It’s really sad for all of us in law enforcement when we have to charge colleagues that are here to protect and preserve public safety for our community,” Rundle stated on Wednesday. “But none of us can really tolerate this nor do the good police officers tolerate this.”