A Miami-Dade cop who claimed he was looking for a robbery suspect confronted an innocent man who was standing in front of his home, threatening to tase him before grabbing by him his neck, slamming him to the sidewalk and throwing him into the back of his patrol car Thursday.
When officer Thomas realized that 26-year-old Jorge Soto was not the man he was looking for, he released him.
But when a Spanish language news crew arrived on the scene to interview the cop, he ordered them to turn off the camera, demanding their identifications.
Officer Thomas ended up writing three citations to the news videographer, including one for not wearing a seatbelt, even though the cameraman was not even inside his car at the time.
The incident began when Thomas pulled up to Soto and demanded his identification. When Soto told him he had no identification with him, that he was standing in front of his own home, Thomas grabbed him by his neck and slammed him down, according to Soto and various witnesses.
América Tevé reporter Ernesto Morales Licea, who has been an avid Photography is Not a Crime reader ever since I was invited on his network to speak about my last arrest in February, did an excellent job of standing up to the cop when he turned on them, ordering to turn off their camera.
It was only a few years ago that Morales was a journalist in Cuba so he knows all too well about governmental suppression of the press.
And he’s not about to let that happen too easily in the United States.
Thomas is now being investigated by internal affairs, according to Morales’ report.
The video clip is in Spanish and you might be required to watch more than a minute of promos before it actually starts.
UPDATE: Minutes after this story was published on PINAC, the National Press Photographers Association fired off a letter to the Miami-Dade Police Department complaining about the retaliation Officer Thomas displayed against the news crew for recording him against his wishes.
Also, Morales, the reporter in this story, has an interesting story himself.
Morales was a journalist in Cuba, meaning he was working for the state media. He ended up leaving the job when the government attempted to influence his writing. He launched a blog, then defected to the United States in 2010:
According to the Miami Herald:
Top News: Cuban journalist and author of the blog “El Pequeño Hermando,” Ernesto Morales Licea, left the island for Miami on Tuesday, with plans to work as a journalist in the United States.
After studying journalism at the University of Oriente, Morales went to work for state media in the eastern town of Bayamo. Morales’ disagreements with the state’s editorial line put him in constant conflicts that boiled over when Cuban hunger striker Orlando Zapata Tamayo died, Morales told Cancio. “I was in an ethical conflict, because they obligated me to take sides and do interviews with artists and intellectuals to back up the government position, when in reality I was against it,” Morales said.
After leaving state journalism, Morales began a the blog El Pequeño Hermano in July, gaining notoriety soon after when his work was recommended by famous Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez on her Twitter account. (Morales had interviewed Sánchez for a post published by Claudia Cadelo’s blog Octavo Cerco in April.)
In November, Morales denounced a series of intricate, online defamation attacks that he believes were coordinated by Cuban authorities. Morales outlined the story in a blog post entitled “Dissecting a Modus Operandi.”
I’ve been talking to Morales who said he will continue working this story, including obtaining video from a nearby surveillance camera that might have caught Thomas’ assault on Soto. He also plans to dedicate another report on the right to record police in public.
As I said earlier, he didn’t come to this country to be told he does not have the right to record police in public.
Also, Miami blogger Randon Pixels dedicated the this blog post to Miami-Dade Police Director James Loftus.
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CARLOS MILLER’S LEGAL DEFENSE FUND
I am immersed in a legal case where I not only want to clear my criminal charges stemming from my arrest in January, but I want to sue the Miami-Dade Police Department for deleting my footage, which I was able to recover.
My goal is to set some type of precedent to ensure this does not happen as often as it does today where cops simply get away with it.
So if you would like to contribute, please click on the “donate” button below and contribute whatever you can afford.
You can also contribute to my Legal Defense Fund by purchasing a photographer rights lens cloth and/or laminated card to wear around your neck like a press badge through Zap Rag.Please write “carlos3” in the comments section of the Paypal transaction to ensure I receive a portion of the sale.