Florida authorities have opened an investigation after bodycam footage showed Doral Police Department officers getting so rough with a man during an arrest that his leg broke.
Craig Nembhard’s plans to sue spurred the probe. The 31-year-old said that on May 16 he was told to pull into a nearby Shell gas station by local police.
According to the police report obtained by NBC 6, police conducted “traffic enforcement details” by stopping drivers who were driving straight in a lane strictly for left turns. Nembhard was heading home that day in the lane in question and got a ticket. But according to him, one of the officers felt he needed to move more swiftly after his citation.
“[The officer] walks up to the car, tells me get the [expletive] out of here,” Nembhard told the news outlet Sept. 23. “Then, being upset and confused as to why he’s acting like that, I started to swear back at him.”
A heated argument ensued between Nembhard and Officer Travis Cooper, which was captured on body camera. Cooper can be heard telling Nembhard, “Man, get your sorry ass out the way. Get your gas.”
“You’re just mad when you can’t do nothing,” Nembhard replied. “My [expletive]’s legal. [Expletive] you, [expletive]!”
“Get out of here [expletive] punk. Punk [expletive],” the officer says in response.
Nembhard then drove around to use another gas pump, but the only one he said was available was where the DPD officers were located. Nembhard said Cooper saw him returning.
“As I am coming back the direction, all I hear was, ‘Oh, you tried to sneak up on me and run me over,'” Nembhard says. “I looked to the right and he’s in the passenger’s side with his gun already drawn.”
“You tried to run me over,” Cooper, who along with several other officers has his weapon drawn, tells Nembhard. The officer is seen pulling Nembhard from his vehicle and slamming him to the ground.
“My leg’s broken!” Nembhard exclaims, screaming in pain. “I never done nothing in my life! My leg’s broken!”
All the while, Cooper commands Nembhard to “get up.”
“You picked the wrong person to play chicken with,” Cooper says.
Nembhard’s injury during the arrest required surgery, where a rod was placed in his leg. He was hospitalized for five days and then jailed. Nembhard was charged with aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer.
“I got to learn to walk again,” he said. “I lost my job. I lost my apartment because I couldn’t work.”
Nembhard questioned why he was “forcibly removed,” reasoning Cooper could have opened the vehicle’s door.
“I never once resisted,” Nembhard said.
According to the police report, Nembhard could have used other pumps and said Cooper reacted the way he did because he was “in fear of his life.”
The bodycam also captured Cooper explaining his side of what happened.
“I put the gun down like, ‘Is he trying to ram me with the car?'” he said in part, before adding, “We yanked him out of the car.”
Nembhard, who viewed the “scary” bodycam footage, had the charges dropped against him a month after the incident.
His attorney, David Kubiliun, says the bodycam footage aided with the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office declining to pursue charges.
“The video clearly speaks for itself,” he said. “They are going to see that this officer clearly acted with excessive force and hopefully they will take some actions against this officer.”
NBC 6 attempted to reach Cooper via the DPD, which said, “We are in receipt of a letter from Mr. Nembhard’s attorney concerning allegations made against members of the Doral Police Department. We have commenced our own investigation into the matter and have nothing to add at this time.”
Attempts were also made by the outlet to contact the officer through the Police Benevolent Association, but the station was told that as the probe is ongoing it “has not risen to the level where any formal representation of Officer Cooper is needed.”