A Miami Beach cop has been relieved of patrol duties pending an investigation into body cam video of him sucker punching an unarmed Black man at a hotel restaurant earlier this month.
The video, obtained by The Miami Herald, shows the shocking encounter between 35-year-old Lowell Lavaine Poitier, who is homeless, and police officer Adriel Dominguez. Officials said authorities were called to the Pelican Hotel on Dec. 3 around 9 p.m. on a complaint that ended with Dominguez slamming his fist into the side of Poitier’s face, knocking him down.
State prosecutors, along with the Miami Beach Police department’s internal affairs unit, launched an investigation into the matter after the footage aired on NBC Miami — nearly nine days after the initial altercation.
The 32-second clip, taken from another cop’s body-worn camera, appears to show Poitier marching around the restaurant and cursing before approaching Dominguez. Poitier, who was reportedly irate and refused to leave, gets close to the officer’s face and says “what?” That’s when Dominguez delivers a swift, powerful right hook to the left-hand side of the man’s face.
In his arrest report, the officer justified throwing the punch and claimed Poitier was behaving “aggressively” and had “clenched his fists” as if he were ready to fight.
“Dominguez. in fear for his safety, struck the [defendant] with a closed fist punch with his right hand, which made contact with the [defendant’s] left side facial area,” Dominguez wrote, noting that Poitier was walking around calling police officers “crackers” prior to the incident.
Michael Pizzi, the attorney for another officer who came forward with the footage, said the video tells an entirely different story.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s outrageous behavior,” said Pizzi, who’s now requesting whistle-blower protection for his client Frederick Dominguez, who’s not related to Adriel Dominguez. “It’s an assault in broad daylight. [Poitier] clearly didn’t take a fighting stance or clench his fist to fight the officer like it says in the report.”
In the clip, Adriel Dominguez is seen pulling Poitier toward him with his left hand and then clocking him with his closed right fist. The assault left Poitier with a busted lip and he was taken to Mount Sinai Medical Center for treatment, NBC News reported. He was ultimately booked into jail and charged with resisting arrest without violence, disorderly conduct and misdemeanor assault on a police officer.
In a statement Wednesday, Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates said he was only made aware of the incident that day and called it a “very serious matter.”
“At my direction, our Internal Affairs Unit immediately launched an investigation,” Oates said. “We have also notified the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. The officer has been relieved of his patrol duties. He’ll be placed in a non-enforcement assignment until further notice.”
According to The Miami Herald, prosecutors could choose to criminally charge Adriel Dominguez for the punch if his actions are deemed unlawful. Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police disagreed that notion, however, and threw its support behind the embattled officer.
“There is no question Officer Dominguez was legally justified and fully entitled to protect himself,” FOP president Robert Jenkins said, describing Poitier as an “agitated, angry and physically aggressive defendant.”
“We are confident that a fair and thorough investigation will result in Officer Dominguez being cleared of any wrong doing,” he added.
Poitier has since been released on bond.
Watch more in the video below.