ORLANDO, Fl. — The man who was repeatedly kicked by a police officer faced a new round of accusations Thursday as the Orlando police chief said Noel Carter punched one of his officers and got on top of him before video captured the police beating him.
Police Chief John Mina said the video of Officer David Cruz kicking Carter is “only a small piece of the picture” and he’s reserving judgment until the investigation is complete. After all, Mina alleged, Carter was intoxicated, “put his hands on a woman,” resisted arrest and fled before the bystander captured Cruz winding up and kicking Carter at least six times as he sat on a curb.
“The incident didn’t start right there. The individual, Mr. Carter, had fought with officers, had punched one of our officers, was on top of one of our officers, fled, had tried to pull out Taser prongs when he was Tased,” Mina told CNN.
Carter, through his attorney, Patrick Lawlor, denied the new allegations — and many old ones. He’s said he and the woman in question were having a mere “disagreement” that didn’t require police intervention, and he and his attorneys have repeatedly said he was “in no way” intoxicated during the altercation. Carter told CNN on Thursday that he had had only a “couple of drinks” over the course of a full meal.
The allegations that Carter punched and got on top of an officer were not included in Cruz’s 1,700-word statement from the arrest affidavit. The allegations were, however, mentioned in a “supplement report” filed by Officer Charles Mays, who was also involved in Carter’s arrest.
Cruz’s statement says that while he and Mays were moonlighting at an Orlando club, they learned of an altercation down the street. Carter was “attempting to grab and hold” a Hispanic woman as she tried to walk away from him, he wrote.
Cruz interviewed the woman, who told police she and Carter were arguing because they’d just broken up after dating for two years, and while trying to interview Carter, the 30-year-old banker became uncooperative, defying Cruz’s order not to talk to the woman, the officer alleged.
Cruz tried to handcuff Carter, who resisted, so Mays pepper-sprayed him and Cruz deployed his Taser three times, “but it did not have the desired effect,” Cruz wrote.
Carter tried to grab the Taser and was hit again with pepper spray before he took off running, Cruz alleged. He ran for about 100 yards before sitting on the curb, and when officers told him to put his hands behind his back, Carter lunged at Mays, Cruz wrote. Cruz struck Carter with a baton before attempting to restrain him, and Carter broke free, scraping Cruz’s elbow and knee, but Carter didn’t run, the officer wrote.
“I decided to deliver foot strikes using the top of my foot, in order to maintain distance and in hopes Carter would comply. I stood up and began delivering several kicks with my right foot to Carter’s right arm in between his elbow and shoulder while telling him, `Stop resisting,’ ” Cruz alleged.
Mays then deployed his Taser again and Carter rolled onto his stomach and placed his hands behind his back, according to the officer.
Mays’ report contains a similar story, though there are differences. For instance, Mays wrote that he hit Carter in the thigh and arm with a baton several times after Cruz first used his Taser on him; he doesn’t say that Cruz used his baton. Mays also mentioned that Cruz tackled the male after first pepper-spraying him and Carter pushed Cruz off of him before running.
Mays has a different account of what happened when they approached Carter on the sidewalk, just before the kicking began. As Cruz again tried to handcuff Carter, “Cruz and the male fell onto the sidewalk, and the male was on top of (Officer) Cruz. I got on top of the male in an attempt to get him off of (Officer) Cruz, by grabbing his arms. The male then punched me in the chest with a right open hand. The male sat up, and I stood up.”
That’s when, according to Mays, he deployed his Taser again, twice, but Carter “was able to pull the prongs out.” Mays reloaded his Taser and stunned him twice more before Cruz “kicked the male several times in the arm,” and Mays used the Taser on him again before Carter complied.
“He was then handcuffed by (Officer) Cruz. Due (to) the encounter, I sustained several abrasions on my right knee and a sore left wrist. I required no medical treatment,” he wrote.
There are at least three videos of the incident, none of which shows the entire altercation: The first begins with Cruz kicking Carter, a second bystander video shows an officer deploying a Taser and Carter running in the opposite direction and the third video, which the Orlando Sentinel bills as surveillance footage, shows Carter trotting across the street and sitting down as the officers give chase.
The video is grainy — and it doesn’t help that it’s nighttime, about 10 p.m. — but the officers appear to approach him on the curb, kick him and wrestle with him before one of the officers hits him with a baton and delivers another series of kicks.
“They … literally beat me like a dog in the street,” Carter told CNN on Thursday.
Could circumstances justify kicking?
Another attorney for Carter, Natalie Jackson, said Wednesday that this is another case of police officers being held to a different standard than average citizens.
“If it were you or I that kicked someone and used a weapon against them while they were sitting passively, we would be arrested. That doesn’t happen to the police,” she said. “I don’t have to tell citizens what they see. It’s there. It is the police who are asking us not to believe what we see on the tape.”
She further said that the police reports released so far “are clearly erroneous and false,” and even if they were true it wouldn’t excuse the officers’ behavior.
“You do not have to look at the totality to see the abuse that is done and the unlawful use of force by these officers,” she said.
Mina, who celebrated his first anniversary as Orlando police chief last month, contended otherwise during his Thursday interview.
“Of course you need the totality of the circumstances,” he said.
Pressed on his opinion of the brief video clip of Cruz kicking a seated Carter, he declined to opine, saying, “That’s only a small piece of the picture and I’m not going to comment until I have the full and complete investigation.”
While Carter has said he would like to see Cruz and Mays charged with battery and aggravated battery with a weapon, Mina said Wednesday he saw no cause to suspend the officers or prohibit them from doing off-duty security work.
“I have no reason to take them off the street,” Mina said, adding that neither officer has a discipline history.
Jackson argued, though, that their treatment of Carter was inappropriate, no matter what precipitated it.
“The police department is not trained to beat, punch, kick, Tase people who are in a submissive position. There’s nowhere in the training matrix that you will ever see that,” she said.
In February, Mina announced he had terminated Officer William Escobar, who had been captured on in a March 2014 video beating and kicking a handcuffed man, according to CNN affiliate WKMG.