Tannie Burke, 21, a visually impaired Florida man, was brought to a dark lot in the dim of the night by Miami-Dade police and left there without his cellphone—as retaliation for Burke’s stepfather capturing a cell phone video of a marijuana arrest.
The cops’ nonsensical treatment of Burke demonstrates the incredible cruelty that police can direct toward African Americans, leaving no question why police have hostile relations with Black communities across the nation.
As Burke told WFOR-TV, it all started on the evening of Aug. 27 when four plainclothes officers from the Miami-Dade Police department pulled into a dead end street, where they arrested three men they believed had been smoking marijuana.
The officers found a marijuana cigarette on the ground when they approached the men, according to the arrest report. As they were conducting the arrests, a fourth man—Burke’s stepfather, Marvin Armstrong—was recording the whole thing on his cell phone.
Though they released two of the men after they signed tickets promising to appear in court, for some reason they handcuffed Burke and led him to the back of an unmarked car. But Burke couldn’t find the door.
“He’s blind, dumb ass,” said the man videotaping the arrest, Burke’s stepfather. “If you don’t tell him he’s walking to the car, how the hell is he going to know?”
The TV station said Burke has been legally blind since birth and has no vision in his right eye and just a general sense of shapes and lights in his left eye.
He can comfortably get around his block in the daytime, but does not venture far at night.
According to Burke, the officers drove him around the neighborhood for about 20 minutes, complaining the whole time about his stepfather.
“They said, ‘Your stepfather got a lot of mouth — you know we don’t like that,’” Burke told the station.
The officers finally dropped him off in a vacant lot in South Dade–about a mile from his home—and seemed not to care that he told them he was blind. But before they left him there, they made him sign an arrest form he couldn’t read.
Burke said he started walking home by putting one foot in the road and the other on the weed-choked curb so that he wouldn’t wander into traffic.
He said he eventually came upon a lighted street and a stranger who helped him get home.
“Forty-five minutes to an hour later he comes walking through the door all sweaty up,” said his stepfather, Marvin Armstrong. “I was like, ‘How’d you get out?’”
Burke said he’s never been convicted of a crime—but he has been arrested twice and detained at least a dozen other times.
“I feel they stop me because they see a Black man walking down the street,” he said, repeating a story told by so many other young Black men across the nation. “I don’t know what to say about it. I just feel bad about it, that’s it.”