Lawsuit Alleges, Cops Held Man at Gunpoint And Beat Him Nearly to Death Over License Place Cover

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Sabrian Bruton filed a lawsuit Friday regarding an incident that he says almost costed him his life.

According to the suit, Bruton, a Miami-Dade County resident, was pulled over on SE 18th Avenue in Homestead on July 6, 2018. around 2:30 p.m. Bruton says he pulled over immediately when the car behind him flashed its lights. Bruton alleges that Homestead Police Department (HPD) Officer Christian DeJohn, then approached his window with his gun drawn and aimed at his face. Bruton was told by DeJohn that he pulled him over because of his license plate cover.

“Bruton, startled, pleaded with the officer not to shoot him,” the federal lawsuit alleges. Bruton says that as he pleaded with Officer DeJohn not to shoot him, a second cop, Officer Eileen Calvo, arrived on the scene and DeJohn eventually lowered his gun.

The two officers returned to their cars, ran Bruton’s information, and then ordered him to exit his vehicle.

“Bruton complied, upon which DeJohn again drew his firearm and ordered Bruton to the ground,” the suit says. “Bruton, afraid of the officer’s increasingly agitated demeanor, again pleaded with DeJohn not to shoot him and appealed to Calvo for assistance.”

According to Bruton, Calvo had drawn her Taser, ducked back inside her car, and started rolling the car closer to where he was standing. Bruton says he backed up because he was afraid she might run him over with her car. Bruton says the combination of the gun, taser and car all pointing at him, made him fear for his life and he decided to run. 

Once he fled the scene, Bruton says, four more officers – Kevin Carvajal, Engelburt Guzman, Carlos Lago, and Shavar Simmons — arrived a the scene to help track him down. Bruton says when the six officers eventually captured him, they pinned him to the ground and gang-beat him. 

The suit alleges that the six officers punched and kicked Bruton in his face, slammed him to the ground repeatedly, and painfully wrenched his limbs in odd positions to restrain him. Bruton says he had to pay medical expenses do to injuries from the assault and he has been left with permanant scars. 

“DeJohn, Calvo, Carvajal, Guzman, Lago, and Simmons caught up to Bruton and savagely beat him until he fell unconscious,” the suit states.

In a statement to the New Times, Homestead Police spokesman, Sgt. Fernando Morales, said the city will “defend itself” and that if any misconduct did occur, the city would root it out. 

Morales went on to say that the city has asked Bruton to make a formal complaint, however Bruton refused on the advice of his lawyers. Morales says the department could not investigate the case further without Bruton’s cooperation. (Homestead Police do not currently use body-worn cameras.)

“There is an open investigation into this,” Morales says. “If there was any type of force used that was not supposed to be used, that will absolutely be something the Homestead Police Department deals with.”

According to the arrest forms from the incident, the police and Bruton have different versions of the story. The police acknowledge that they did stop Bruton for an improper license plate cover, but according to DeJohn (the first officer at the scene), Bruton initially stated his name was “Kenneth.” Police say he had been driving with a suspended license and that while they were running a check on him, Bruton allegedly drove his car roughly 100 feet towards them, then jumped out and ran on foot. According to Officer DeJohn, this was when he first drew his gun. 

“I began a light jog towards the offender and continued to give verbal commands,” DeJohn wrote. “The offender began a light run while saying, ‘Do not shoot me!’”

DeJohn goes on to say that Calvo (the second officer on the scene) followed slowly behind Bruton in her car as he ran on foot. After Bruton jumped a fence, the four other officers arrived on the scene. DeJohn said he didn’t see the actual arrest of Bruton and didn’t explain in the arrest form how Bruton got the facial injuries seen in his mugshot. 

“I was advised that the offender kicked at and swung his arms at officers several times to prevent being taken into custody,” DeJohn wrote. “The offender also repeatedly reached toward his waistband for an unknown reason.” He added: “When I observed the offender after officers took him into custody, he had blood in the area of his mouth.”

Bruton’s lawyers attached HPD’s “use-of-force” report to their complaint. In the report officers admit to using their “hands, fists, and feet” to beat Bruton and to noticing “visible signs of injury” on his body after the attack ended. The report also notes that Bruton audibly complained he was injured after the beating. Also, in documents attached to the case, four cops — Carvajal, Guzman, Lago, and Simmons — each filed reports stating they’d hit Bruton.

The records show that the report was reviewed by two different HPD supervisors; both finding that the beating was “within policy guidelines,” that “training and proper tactics were followed,” and that “lesser-force alternatives were not available.”

Morales, the Homestead PD spokesman, says “hands” were only used to pin Bruton to the ground and that “closed-fist strikes,” also known as punches, are considered legal uses of force.

Court records reveal that prosecutors charged Bruton with ten different criminal counts, including driving with a suspended license, fleeing from a police officer, resisting officers both with and without violence, and even burglary. Prosecutors dropped nine of the charges after Bruton pleaded no contest to a single misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief. He served no jail time and was only ordered to pay a fine to the court.

“The injuries and damages are permanent in nature,” his new lawsuit says, “and Bruton will suffer losses and impairments in the future.”


First appeared on Black Main Street

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