State Watch

Florida officers laughed after shooting protesters with rubber bullets, video shows

Newly released body camera footage from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department in Florida shows officers celebrating after firing rubber bullets at protesters at a May 31 Black Lives Matter rally.

The footage, obtained by The Miami Herald, shows Detective Zachary Baro saying "beat it, little f-----" after officers shot impact ammunition at a protester who was walking away after throwing a tear gas canister back at the police who fired it.

The video also depicts Officer Jamie Chatman asking Baro whether his body camera is off, to which Baro erroneously responds that the camera is not currently recording. Two officers laugh about having fired the projectiles, with one saying, "Did you see me f--- up those motherf------?"

Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione defended the footage in a statement to the Herald, accusing the paper of taking it out of context.

"The entire video clearly demonstrates our officers were under attack by a group of people who chose to use violence instead of peace to antagonize the situation. Although the language is extreme, and offensive to some, our officers were dealing with the chaos of a developing situation," Maglione.

The footage depicts officers firing tear gas after some demonstrators threw plastic water bottles when an officer pushed a kneeling woman to the ground, a move for which he has since been suspended. However, despite Maglione's statement, it also depicts protesters attempting to de-escalate the situation, with one man shouting, "Please I am begging you, we're peaceful."

Robert Drago, a retired lieutenant colonel with the Broward County Sheriff's Office, noted a point at which Baro shouts, "If you need it, give me a target."

"If you're not seeing a threat, why are you asking for a threat?" Drago told the Herald. "That would almost lead you to believe that they were indiscriminately firing."

Baro's incident report says he was struck in the left thigh by a rock and that he targeted "violent subjects" who were throwing "rocks, fireworks, smoke bombs and water bottles containing an unknown yellowish liquid."

"I understand what it's like to have that adrenaline. I've been in a riot situation," George Kirkham, a former police officer and professor emeritus at Florida State University, told the newspaper. "But that does not excuse that kind of verbiage and behavior. It suggests that the police think they can do whatever they want and get away with it."

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