MIAMI – A suspended Miami police officer has been charged with assault less than a week after a video was posted on Facebook showing him kicking a surrendering car theft suspect in the head, prosecutors said Tuesday.
Officer Mario Figueroa's charge is a second-degree misdemeanor, a Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office news release said. The officer was suspended after the 51-second video was posted last Thursday. An arraignment date wasn't immediately set.
The video shows the suspect, David Suazo, 31, lying face down on the ground with an officer standing over him. That officer gets on Suazo's back and handcuffs him. Suazo doesn't appear to be struggling.
Just after the second handcuff is secured, an officer identified by officials as Figueroa runs in and kicks Suazo in the head. That officer then turns around and dives on Suazo's head.
Three other officers arrive and the video ends.
Lisa Harrell, the stay-at-home mom who posted the video, said she went outside her apartment Thursday morning to see what was causing her dog to bark. She said she saw Suazo running back and forth until he was trapped by officers and surrendered. She used her cellphone to shoot the video.
Following his arrest, Suazo complained of chest pains and was taken to a hospital, the State Attorney's Office release said. In a video taken while Suazo waited for treatment, the suspect berates Figueroa for unsuccessfully trying to kick him in the head.
"Missed on the kick," Suazo said in the video. "Learn how to aim, my boy."
Officer Figueroa replied, "If I wanted to kick you, you know, I would have kicked you right."
Police said officers had tried to stop Suazo in a stolen Jeep but he sped away and crashed into a wall at Harrell's apartment complex. Suazo took a fighting stance when confronted by Figueroa, who tried to shock him with his stun gun, but it was ineffective, police said. The other officer fired his stun gun at Suazo and ordered him to the ground, and he complied.
State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle had ordered her public corruption unit to begin an investigation.
"Officer Mario Figueroa can have no excuse for the alleged actions seen on the initial videotape," Fernandez Rundle said in a statement. "This community demands respect for all individuals taken into custody."
Police union President Ed Lugo didn't immediately have a comment. Figueroa has been with the department for two years.
Suazo is charged with grand theft, fleeing an officer and other charges. No information on an attorney for Suazo was available.