A spokesperson for the woman shot in the face with a rubber bullet by a Fort Lauderdale police officer at a Black Lives Matter protest said the authorities who are supposed to be investigating whether the use of force was justified have instead interrogated the woman about her actions that day.
LaToya Ratlieff suffered a broken eye socket and received 20 stitches after she was shot in the face with a rubber bullet by Fort Lauderdale officer Eliezer Ramos at a Black Lives Matter demonstration on May 31.
Evan Ross, a spokesperson for Ratlieff, said in a press release that she was interrogated by the same people who are supposed to be investigating whether the officer’s use of potentially deadly use of force was justified.
“LaToya was not interviewed; she was interrogated by FLPD,” the news release said. “Worst of all, she was essentially asked to justify her participation in a peaceful First Amendment protected demonstration.”
The Miami Herald reports that during the interview on Jan. 19 the investigators asked her if she had thrown anything, but body camera footage and footage from bystanders shows she did not. In fact, she was simply walking with a placard in her hand.
Investigators also asked if Ratlieff was associated with anyone who threw objects, and if those who threw objects took her to the hospital after she was struck in the face by the bullet.
Footage appears to show that those who threw objects were not the same people who took Ratlieff to the hospital.
Finally, investigators asked why Ratlieff didn’t ask officers for help while her face bled heavily from the rubber bullet. Footage shows other protesters helping Ratlieff away from the line of officers who still had their weapons drawn.
“Though we remain hopeful that the FLPD investigation will acknowledge the failures of the department to follow its own protocols, the clear civil rights violations that occurred, and impose accountability on those responsible, we have seen nothing to make us optimistic that justice will come internally,” the news release said.
On the day of the incident, Ratlieff wandered toward a conflict between police and protesters, where officers were spraying tear gas and firing rubber bullets at a crowd that began throwing water bottles after one officer shoved a woman who was kneeling.
Ratlieff attempted to calm the conflict by encouraging people to kneel but was struck in the face when police began firing more rubber bullets. As a result of the injury, Ratlieff may face long-term vision issues or brain damage.
Ramos said he did not shoot Ratlieff intentionally, and meant to strike a man who was tossing tear gas canisters back at police. She was preparing to leave the protest just before she was shot, recalled blood spilling from her head as she rode to the hospital in a stranger’s car.
The National Police Foundation was hired to review the department’s policies. Ratlieff wants to sit down with city leaders to discuss reforms.
During an August sit-down, a lead investigator told Ratlieff that Ramos was a “good guy” who would not have shot her on purpose.
The Herald found that some officers laughed and joked while they fired rubber bullets at protesters.
Ratlieff’s attorneys suggested a federal civil rights lawsuit may be filed.