Today, two press conferences were held in downtown Orlando to address an incident in which two Orlando police officers are accused of using excessive force in the arrest of a man on Orange Avenue in downtown Orlando on June 4.
Noel Carter, a 30-year-old banker from South Florida, was at Venue 578 downtown when he got into an argument with a woman. The police report says that officers determined that he was involved in probable "dating violence." Two officers, David Cruz and Charles Mays, were working "an extra duty detail" outside the club when they were "notified of a disturbance," which they determined was a case of battery. They tried to arrest Carter, who they say resisted their attempts. Officers say they were trying to get him to "stay away" from the victim, but he wouldn't comply, so they sprayed ihim with a chemical agent, then used a Taser on him. He then started running away. Police were later caught on video by a woman watching from her apartment balcony as officers kicked him and and Tased him while he lay on the ground. You can see that video below:
Carter hired civil rights attorney Natalie Jackson (who was also a lawyer for the family of Trayvon Martin) to represent him. Today he and Carter held a press conference in downtown Orlando calling for an independent investigation of Officers Mays and Cruz. The Orlando Police Department responded later in the day with a press conference of its own, in which Chief John Mina answered questions about the incident. You can watch that press conference below:
Late this afternoon, police also released witness statements as well as the department's initial investigation of the incident. Interestingly, Jackson pointed out to us this evening, the statement made by one of the witnesses is the woman who Carter was allegedly battering. In her statement, she doesn't say she was being battered or that there was an actual altercation between her and Carter – something that's key to the officers' statements about what happened that night and why they chose to pursue Carter. The witness' statement reads:
"My friend did not cooperate, but it was because of intoxication. I was arguing with him to leave me alone, and he didn't listen."
Jackson says that the woman had dated Carter for two years. The two went to Venue 578 with a friend and got into an argument.
"They got into an argument, and they broke up," Jackson says. "As she was walking away, he says let’s talk, he grabs her on the arm or shoulder and the police come out and they push him. If you look at all the videos, and Chief Mina can send out all the videos he wants, my client is shown in them walking away with his hands up. … my client has worked very hard to become a personal banker in the finance industry, he has no criminal record, and he now [faces] two felonies that could ruin his life."
The other two witness statements police released today also indicate that Carter argued with a woman; neither claims to have witnessed battery or domestic violence. One claims that he saw that Carter "started to fight back," but then ran away from officers. At some point after that, the video was made of the officers kicking Carter while he was down on the sidewalk.
Jackson says she and Carter filed a complaint today with the office of State Attorney Jeff Ashton. She says that even though Mina says the Orlando police is sending the case to the FDLE for further review, "that's the police investigating the police," and her client's deserves an independent review.
Even if Carter had stepped out of line in his argument with the woman, she adds, it would not excuse the beating the officers gave to Carter while he was already subdued.
"We’re not going to let this go because you are trying to ruin someone’s life over what your officers did that you won’t admin culpability to," she says. "No matter what did happen, what we saw in that video is Noel on the sidewalk being hit kicked and Tasered. I don't care what happened prior. There was no threat, and you cannot do that."
You can read the witness statements and the OPD's "response to resistance report" below.