Officials are currently investigating a Miami police officer after he was captured on cellphone video repeatedly punching a homeless man inside of a Publix while attempting to arrest him.
The video stems from an incident that occurred inside of the Publix supermarket on Northeast 17th Street on April 16th.
Police say they were called to the store just before 7 p.m. after a homeless man took a piece of chicken from the deli and began eating it on his way out.
A manager for the store reportedly confronted the man and asked him to pay for the food. The man then replied, “[Expletive], I am homeless. I don’t have any money.”
An officer who was working an extra shift at the store noticed the confrontation and attempted to intervene. The officer identified as Alexander Garcia-Contreras, stopped the homeless man and asked him to come into the store’s office. When the homeless man refused and walked away, officer Garcia-Contreras attempted to arrest the suspect.
In the video of the arrest, Garcia – Contreras is seen throwing the homeless man to the ground and punching him several times.
When asked about the situation City of Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo said:
“I am not going to talk or characterize,” Acevedo said. “I think the video speaks to itself. The fact that he’s off, been relieved of duty should tell you something, but we’re not going to investigate an administrative or, potentially, a criminal investigation involving a police officer in the media. We’re going to do our jobs, and we will report back to this community what the findings are and what the consequences are.”
Ronald L. Book, the Chairman of Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust, also released the following statement:
“This video is obviously very hard to watch. It’s true that homelessness in Miami is a challenging issue. It’s why we have outreach teams who work tirelessly to convince people experiencing homelessness to move into housing where they can access meals and mental health services, and ultimately, avoid these kinds of incidences altogether.”
The homeless man has been identified as 58-year-old Willie Barbor. He was arrested that day for petty theft, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest without violence.