MIAMI – A South Florida doctor is speaking out after he says a City of Miami police officer detained him, in front of his house, on his way to help the homeless.
The incident was captured on surveillance video.
“I’m a physician currently working at University of Miami hospital,” said Dr. Armen Henderson.
Dr. Henderson is on the frontlines in the fight against COVID-19.
He also works with community organizers, meeting Miami’s vulnerable homeless population where they are, on the streets.
“They would spread the virus faster than any other,” said Dr. Henderson. “We felt like particular attention should be paid to them as well.”
Friday afternoon, he was unloading tents from his van outside his home, preparing to go to Downtown Miami.
“We were going to hand (them) out to homeless people,” he said.
That’s when he said a Miami police sergeant approaching him, asking him if he was littering.
“I turn around and finish whatever I am doing so I could get to the people by 12 o’clock,” Dr. Henderson explained. “He says I am going to need to see your ID to prove that you live here and I am like sir, I am just trying to do this, why are you bothering me?”
The video shows the sergeant place Dr. Henderson in handcuffs. Then the doctor said he screamed his wife’s name.
As their young children, ages one and five, wait inside, his wife emerges with ID to prove they live there.
“We see how these things escalate and turn out for the worse, especially for people who look like me,” he said.
As he reflects on the situation, he also approaches it from a physician’s lens; concerned that the officer wasn’t wearing a mask:
“Specially in a pandemic, everyone should wear masks,” Dr. Henderson said. “You should keep your distance between people, especially and limit your interactions. I was taking tents out of my car, why was that even a reason to stop and talk to me?
“It is because of those reasons the number of cases were going up. Why was he so ready to approach me without a mask on regardless or not if I was littering?
Miami police said it has launched an internal affairs investigation into the incident.
“The City of Miami Police Department does not condone or accept profiling of any kind,” said Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina. “We have had a litany of complaints related to illegal dumping. There is a cargo van that’s parked in front of that home where there appears to be trash that’s being off-loaded; that is the genesis of the stop. Now, what happens after, all that needs to be investigated and will be investigated.”
“He was looking to get some reaction out of me, and I knew at the time I just need to keep cool,” said Dr. Henderson.
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