Boynton Beach Police Officer Found Guilty in Beating of Unarmed Man

A jury found Boynton Beach police officer Mike Brown guilty on Thursday of using excessive force in the beating of an unarmed man who was a passenger in a car that led police on a high-speed chase.

Two ex-cops who took part in the arrest, Justin Harris and Ronald Ryan, were cleared of all charges, including falsifying records to cover up the beating, which was caught on Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office helicopter footage.

Though some might have thought it would be a slam-dunk case because some of the incident was captured on video, the defense emphasized that the video did not tell the whole story.

The video, shot from several hundred feet overhead with an infrared camera shortly after 2 a.m., was fuzzy and grainy and did not capture the whole interaction between Braswell and the officers.

The defense repeatedly hammered on the theme that the overhead video did not show what the officers saw on the ground.

Brown was also convicted of using a police-issued firearm to strike the passenger.

The jury began deliberation Wednesday and came back with the verdict just before 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

Brown faces up to 15 years in prison. The judge let the widower go home after the conviction to make arrangements for his 8-year-old son, who is undergoing psychiatric treatment after Brown’s wife died in October 2016.

Brown’s attorney, Bruce Reinhart, said the father of three also cares for his 72-year-old mother. His eldest son, who serves in the United States Navy, will likely take custody of his younger son while his 22-year-old daughter attends college.

Defense attorneys argued that the three men faced potential dangers on the ground during the chase that were imperceptible on the helicopter video, shot from hundreds of feet in the air. After the officers had a week to calm down and reflect, they made modifications to the reports.

Harris’ attorney Jonathan Wasserman said outside the courthouse that his client was looking forward to getting back to his business and that Harris was very pleased with the outcome.

“Under the law, they’re entitled to use force in certain situations,” he said. “His force that was used was not excessive.”

Wasserman also stated that his client and Ryan were not convicted of falsifying records “because they didn’t falsify records with the intent to deceive anybody.”

Prosecutors argued the trio made the changes once they discovered the video.

Brown, Ryan and Harris decided not to testify in the trial or call any witnesses in their defense after prosecutors called their last witness on Tuesday.

Boynton Beach Police Chief Jeffrey Katz said that because there are additional court proceedings under way pertaining to the same incident, “our only comment is that the men and women of the Boynton Beach Police Department remain committed to providing legally and ethically sound policing services, and that we will accept nothing less from those entrusted with this responsibility.”

Boynton Beach police officers were caught on video by an overhead Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office helicopter that recorded them beating a suspect, federal prosecutors said. (Boynton Beach Police / Courtesy)
Prosecutors say Jeffrey Braswell, then 25, was illegally beaten by Boynton Beach police during an Aug. 20, 2014 arrest. The three officers were accused of violating his constitutional rights by using excessive force against him.

Braswell was a passenger in a car that led nine officers on a 20-mile chase up and down Interstate 95, north from Boynton Beach to West Palm Beach, then south to Lake Worth. Officers said the 12-minute chase reached speeds of 80 to 100 miles per hour.

The driver of the Mitsubishi, with two passengers, had refused to pull over for a traffic stop and struck a Boynton Beach police officer who was trying to force the car to stop on Gateway Boulevard. That officer, Jeffrey Williams, was also struck by one of the police cruisers. He recovered from his injuries and has returned to work.

When officers finally managed to stop the fleeing car, in Lake Worth, an overhead PBSO helicopter that was assisting in the chase videotaped officers beating and kicking the front-seat passenger, Braswell, prosecutors said.

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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