Miami police officer used excessive force arresting paraplegic man, civilian panel says

Charles Rabin
·4 min read

Almost a year after an internal review cleared several officers of any wrongdoing during the arrest of a Black paraplegic man who was dragged out of a patrol car, a police civilian oversight board has condemned the actions of five Miami police officers who took Trayon Fussell-Dumas into custody during a traffic stop.

Last week, Miami’s Civilian Investigative Panel found that several officers failed to turn on the audio component of their body cameras during the arrest. The panel also said the five officers used improper procedure, one was discourteous when he referred to Fusell-Dumas as “boy” and that another used excessive force.

The tussle between the officers and Fussell-Dumas took place in the back of a patrol car after police tried to handcuff him behind his back and Fussell-Dumas said he needed to be handcuffed in front because of his paralysis. It led to his being dragged out of the patrol vehicle and onto the ground.

“We saw [a Miami police officer] hit Mr. Fussell when he was down. Obviously, he’s a paraplegic. So I’m not sure the hitting was reasonable,” said Cristina Beamud, executive director of Miami’s CIP. “And he wasn’t hitting the officer. He just wouldn’t comply with orders to put his hands behind his back because of his condition.”

Miami police on Friday said they found “no evidence of excessive force” after initially reviewing the body camera footage from the officers involved in the July 2019 arrest of Fussell-Dumas. They said when the CIP initiated its investigation last year the police department reached out to Fussell-Dumas, who never responded. And police said that as of Friday they had not seen the CIP’s most recent findings.

“We have not received a copy of the CIP’s investigation, so we don’t know what evidence they base their findings on,” said Deputy Police Chief Ron Papier.

Papier said the city’s internal review into the arrest was not “cleared,” but was found to be “unsupported” because Fussell-Dumas never contacted police. He was sent a certified letter and police tried calling him.

“He can still come in and give a statement,” Papier said.

Reached by phone this week, Fussell-Dumas said the entire incident could have easily been avoided.

“I was just asking simply for them to put any handcuffs on in front of me,” he said.

Fussell-Dumas was paralyzed nine years ago after being shot eight times while walking home from football practice. He was 15 and played for the Liberty City Warriors. He never testified against the shooter and said he was shot six months after a spat with another teen.

Fussell-Dumas, 24, was arrested by Miami police in July 2019 during a traffic stop when police discovered he had a pair of outstanding bench warrants. One was for possession of a small amount of marijuana, the other for petty theft and for passing counterfeit money in Volusia County.

Police body camera footage of the incident and video taken by Fussell-Dumas’ friend, identified only as “Old School,” shows the friend lifting Fussell-Dumas out of a car and into a patrol car before a confrontation ensues over how he is being handcuffed.

On the video, when Fussell-Dumas refuses to allow officers to handcuff him behind his back, police push and pull him out of the patrol vehicle and wrestle with him on the ground, either shoving or punching him, according to the CIP. When paramedics arrived they found Fussell-Dumas face-down on the ground before taking him to the hospital.

At one point “Old School” appears to say, “The guy’s a f...... cripple. It doesn’t take that much to take a cripple into custody.” Then after Fussell-Dumas is pushed to the ground an officer is heard yelling, “Don’t f---ing push me, boy. Don’t f---ing push me, boy. Watch the f--- out.” The CIP said police officer Patrick Poll was the one yelling at Fussell-Dumas and said he was the only one of the five officers who used excessive force.

Fussell-Dumas made headlines almost two years ago after failing to take his 6-year-old son to the hospital after the boy was accidentally shot by his cousin. He was charged with child abuse by neglect and said he didn’t take his only child to the hospital because he was “scared” he’d get the child’s young cousin in trouble. That case is still pending.

He said he also lost his mother three years ago after she was struck by a stray bullet. Now he wants to film a documentary about his life.

“It’s pretty special,” he said. “Everything I’ve been through. I feel like a soldier.”