An internal review determined a Miami Police Department officer was justified when he cuffed Dr. Armen Henderson, a Black doctor who received media attention for helping the homeless during the COVID-19 crisis.
The incident occurred on April 10, while Henderson was unloading a cargo van outside of his Miami home. Sgt. Mario Menegazzo reportedly approached the doctor after receiving complaints about illegal trash dumping.
After a brief conversation, Menegazzo cuffed Henderson. He remained restrained until his wife came out with some identification.
“He said, ‘You should refer to me as sir or sergeant when talking to me.’ I never said I was a doctor. But I didn’t cuss. He just grabbed my arms and cuffed me,” Henderson told the Miami Herald after the incident.
A day after the encounter, MPD announced its internal investigation. An internal memo distributed on May 4 stated Henderson’s detainment was valid.
“As a sworn police officer, Sergeant Menegazzo had the right to detain Dr. Henderson until his reasonable suspicion that Dr. Henderson was dumping illegally was dispelled,” the memo read.
The memo asserted Menegazzo “did not stop Dr. Henderson because he was black, and further advised that if Dr. Henderson had been white or Hispanic, he would have acted in the same manner.”
Even though Menegazzo is off the hook for cuffing Henderson, he was cited for three errors. Those infractions include yelling and pointing in Henderson’s face, failing to inform dispatch of the stop, and failure to wear a mask while interacting with Henderson. Miami officers are required to wear face coverings during the pandemic.
Henderson disapproves of the decision and told The New York Times Menegazzo “put my life in danger by not having a mask on.”
“I felt that it was ridiculous that, No. 1, that the stop was justified, and then the detainment was justified as well,” Henderson said. “It’s like, when are we going to start holding people accountable for their actions? I was very sad, very disgusted at the report I read.”
Menegazzo has been the subject of at least eight investigations since 2012, per The Miami New Times. No plans for disciplinary action regarding the Henderson case have been revealed.