It may surprise some people, but in the world of police work, there are a few things that can’t get papered over with a slap on the wrist and a couple weeks on paid leave.
Like arresting a man without provocation, pummeling him in the back of the head, dragging and kicking him and cursing at him. And then being unlucky enough to get caught on camera.
After six months, the Florida State Attorney’s office is finally throwing the book at Officer William Escobar of the Orlando Police Department, whose violent assault in March on victim Refus Holloway was captured in lurid detail by Holloway’s sister. The state is considering criminal charges.
This marks a pretty serious escalation. After the video appeared in the media in June, Escobar, who already has a long history of citizen complaints, got off with just a bit of “alternative duty service.”
Now he’s a real suspect. What gives?
The possibility of a cover-up, is what. It turns out that Escobar had a body-camera running when he showed up at the door in response to a disturbance complaint.
The original video already contradicted Escobar’s official report when it surfaced in June—for example, it does not show Holloway “resisting arrest” in the slightest, nor does it show him trying to kick Escobar.
Perhaps Escobar’s body camera will depict the arrest just as Holloway’s family tells it: Holloway was peacefully explaining what had happened, when Escobar suddenly started to “attack” him.
But OPD never turned that footage over to prosecutors, who ending up dropping their charges against Holloway for “resisting arrest without violence.” In fact, the checklist police sent to the State in Holloway’s case said there was no video at all, WFTV reported.
So until now, the video taken by Luciarae Fripp, Holloway’s sister, was the only one known to exist. Now that’s no longer the case. But OPD continues to withhold the body-cam video for their own investigation.
We should all thank our lucky stars that Fripp pressed “Record” as soon as her brother hit the ground. As this incident shows, body cameras alone are not sufficient.
“I’m a cop,” Escobar says in Fripp’s video, between ugly jabs at the back of Holloway’s head. “Do you understand, you stupid motherf**er?”
Yes, Officer Escobar, I’m sure Mr. Holloway does.
Haru Coryne is a writer based in New Orleans who has worked as a journalist in Chicago and New York City. Expect more PINAC stories from him.