Two Hallendale Beach police officers have been placed on administrative leave while internal affairs investigates a video that reportedly shows them striking a suspect with batons.
Officers Richard Allen and Jaime Cerna were recorded arresting James Dunkelberger on May 30 after he purportedly stole a phone and charger from a parked car. Dunkelberger was charged with resisting an officer without violence and burglary.
According to the arrest affidavit, Dunkelberger tried to impede the two officers from arresting him. Cerna reportedly fired his stun gun at Dunkelberger, but it was ineffective. The suspect stood up and tried to run from the two officers. Cerna fired his stun gun a second time, but the suspect still refused to comply, according to the affidavit.
Having expended both his stun gun cartridges, Cerna decided to use his baton to stop Dunkelberger. He struck the suspect multiple times on his legs and once Dunkelberger was on the ground, the two officers handcuffed him, the affidavit said.
A video that was posted on Twitter the next day by someone who claims to have witnessed the encounter tells a different story. The video shows the two cops repeatedly beating a man as they command him to “get on the ground.”
One of the officers is holding a used stun gun. The other officer pushes the man to the ground, saying, “Now you’re going to get on the ground. Doesn’t that hurt?”
The officer with the stun-gun repeatedly hits the man as he is on the ground wailing in pain. The person recording the video can be heard yelling, “Stop hitting him!”
Hallandale Beach’s top officials and City Manager Roger Carlton called a press conference on Thursday to address the video.
“There is a video of two of our officers in an altercation with someone,” Carlton told the press. “I will tell you after viewing that video it is of serious concern to the police department, to me as city manager and certainly to our elected officials.”
Cerna and Allen have both been placed on administrative leave and the police department has launched an internal affairs investigation. Carlton told the media that they will be collecting surveillance footage in the area and interviewing witnesses about the incident.
“Any video of an altercation between a citizen and a police is always a concern. As you know, at a national level, there is more and more consciousness of this, more and more concern about it,” Carlton continued. “Hallandale Beach is a good place, we’re a family place. But like any city, we have crime and want our people to be protected. But we also want everybody treated fairly, so I think it would be grossly inappropriate for any member of the leadership of this community not to be concerned.”
Hallandale Beach Police Department is one of the few in South Florida that doesn’t have body cameras for all of its officers. Carlton told the press that the department is in the process of acquiring the cameras.
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