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Sep 28 2011

Miami Police Beat Up Man With Down Syndrome

Another appalling story of police brutality:

Gilberto Powell, 22, was stopped by officers in the area of Southwest 111th Place and Southwest 138th Street around 9:30 p.m. Saturday, according to a Miami-Dade Police report.

The report said officers spotted a bulge in Powell’s waist band and when they tried to pat him down, he tried to flee. Police say Powell broke free as officers tried to place him in handcuffs, hitting his forehead on the ground.


It’s not clear from the article what the circumstances were that justified the stop in the first place, but having a bulge in your waist band would not be probable cause for anything. Here’s what the police say:

Powell hit one of the officers in the chest and continued to struggle until one of the officers “struck [Powell] in the left side of his face with an open hand in an attempt to subdue him,” the report said.

After Powell was finally handcuffed and questioned, the officers realized he was “mentally challenged, was not capable of understanding our commands, and that the bulge in his waistband was a colostomy bag,” the report said.

Miami-Dade Police issued a statement Wednesday, saying they’re still investigating the incident.

And here’s what the family says:

But Gold says the police report is inaccurate and Powell’s family is outraged. Gold said Powell claims he didn’t hit any of the officers and was just trying to go home.

“He’s a really nice kid, he wouldn’t hurt a fly,” Gold said. “Gilberto says he didn’t do anything wrong, he just wanted to go home.”

Gold said Powell and other witnesses claim police body slammed him to the ground, bloodying his face and eye and causing contusions to his head. The injury to his eye may still require surgery, Gold said.

Even worse, Gold claims Powell’s colostomy bag was “ripped right off his body.” …

Gold also claims the officers should have known Powell has special needs immediately.

If you just look at Gilberto, he 5-foot-3, 130 pounds with Down Syndrome, it’s 100 percent obvious he has Down Syndrome,” he said. It’s impossible to believe [the police's story] if you hear one word out of Gilberto’s mouth.”

It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to find out the police lied on their reports; that’s happened so often that one can safely assume that it is absolutely routine. That it could possibly take that kind of brutality to subdue a 130 pound handicapped man even if he was resisting is impossible to believe.

10 comments

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  1. 1
    alanb

    Once again we have the amazing coincidence that Gilberto Powell had dark skin. If Andy Breitbart hadn’t convinced me that white racism is dead, I would find that very suspicious.

  2. 2
    Didaktylos

    Give the guy 8 digit compensation. Stop paying the whole force until the money is made good – maybe that’ll encourage them to keep their colleagues on the strait and narrow.

  3. 3
    frankb

    Any sort of struggle in close quarters is going to result in a hand contacting a police officer. “See, he hit me. I get to take him down.” The police always use those excuses because it is true. The hand did hit the officer’s chest. It takes a video or eye witnesses to clarify that the hand was open and waving weakly around. It takes videos and witnesses to clarify that the police officer subdued the victim with a move that a pro wrestler in front of screaming fans would have been proud of. Doing this to a kid with Downs Syndrome because of a bulge at his beltline, that is very alarming.

  4. 4
    tomp

    This kind of thing terrifies me. I have a son with Down syndrome and he couldn’t understand that the failure to obey everything the police say gives them the right to do anything they want up to and including emptying their pistol into him. Of course, he’s not black so he is probably safer but it still scares me.

  5. 5
    MikeMa

    I’m guessing these ‘officers’ are of the chickenshit variety. Rather than approach a group of youths selling drugs or patrolling tough areas, they pick on a lone, 130lb little kid. I do hope they feel macho for this heinous act.

  6. 6
    Dennis N

    I have a son with Down syndrome and he couldn’t understand that the failure to obey everything the police say gives them the right to do anything they want up to and including emptying their pistol into him.

    I gotta tell you, I don’t understand it either.

  7. 7
    ashleybell

    Does any agency outside of the police force itself have the authority to fire officers? As employees of the state, it seems that there would be. Ansd if there is one,I don’t understand why this hasn’t been implemented, or used, if indeed it does exist.

  8. 8
    scorinth

    I really hate to be the dissenting voice, but I really don’t see much here.
    A few facts that apparently aren’t in dispute: Powell had a bulge in his waistband. He was stopped by the police, but did not follow directions, and tried to flee. There was a struggle, and Powell was injured in the process. Upon closer examination, the officers found that they had made a mistake and admitted as much in their report.

    What this would suggest to me is that the police saw a man who they suspected of carrying a concealed weapon, so they stopped and questioned him. In the best case scenario, the suspect would have at this point clarified that he wasn’t carrying a weapon, or provided proof of a license to carry the weapon. In the worst case, the suspect would have drawn the weapon, or tried to run. Powell ran, and thus gave the police probable cause.

    I really hate to use the old canard, but I really think it applies here:
    Run from the police, and they’ll chase you.

    I’m not saying that the police officers didn’t make a mistake, I’m not saying that I know for sure what happened, and I’m certainly not saying that police abuse isn’t a real problem. I’m just saying that the evidence presented here isn’t convincing to me. It certainly isn’t in the same category as the usual police brutality stories that I’m used to seeing on this blog.

  9. 9
    scorinth

    Also, the phrase “old canard”. Blech. I wish I could think a little faster or I would have said something like “authoritarian tautology”.

  10. 10
    Worldtraveller

    He had a bulge in his pants that the police suspected was a weapon. Yet, given the 4th amendment (remember that one? I know most police tend to stop at two, thinking it only applies to them….) the police still didn’t have the authority to actually search the poor guy.

    A search warrant, or some other kind of actual probably cause is still needed, over and above ‘a suspicion’.

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