Freelance disc jockey Lazaro Estrada was spinning records for a promotional event at an e-cigarettes store when he noticed something a bit unnerving.
Miami-Dade police cuffed store owner Andre Trigiano on outstanding misdemeanor traffic charges — and according to Estrada, arresting officer Michael Valdez removed Trigiano from the store and threw the handcuffed suspect to the ground.
That’s when Estrada said he began recording the St. Patrick’s Day incident on his iPhone, reported WFOR-TV in Miami — and by the time he was done Estrada was arrested, too, for obstruction of justice.
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The cell phone video begins with the officer standing on the sidewalk about twenty feet from Estrada, holding a handcuffed Trigiano by the arm. The cop tells two women who are much closer to him to back away, one of the women tells Estrada to move back. The officer then turns to Estrada and says something unintelligible, gesturing at him to get away. The video shows Estrada immediately beginning to back pedal up the walk and into the store where he remains – until pulled out by other arriving officers.
But that’s not exactly what Estrada’s below video, posted to YouTube, appears to show.
At the very start Estrada is outside the store near the sidewalk with at least one woman witnessing the officer holding Trigiano in handcuffs, and the officer insists that the onlookers retreat — and a woman yells for Estratda, who says the officer is “hurting” Trigiano’s wrists, to go back inside the store, which he does.
Then the clip seems to capture Estrada opening the store’s door and readdressing the arresting officer (at the 2:14 mark). Apparently the same crying woman is heard begging Estrada to go back into the store: “Please stop! You’re making it worse! Please go inside!”
At about the 5:20 mark Estrada appears to step outside the open door again when the arresting officer apparently asks a woman, “Hey, can you tell him to get inside the store?” Apparently the same woman is then heard screaming, “Yes! Please! For the love of God get inside the store!”
Estrada then appears to get back inside just as more officers arrive.
Here’s Estrada’s video:
In the arrest report, Officer Valdez wrote that he gave Estrada “verbal commands to back away and he refused to do so.”
“I felt threatened by his presence,” Valdez wrote of Estrada.
“I backed off into the building and I stayed behind the glass doors,” Estrada told WFOR′s Gary Nelson. “Obviously, all I had was my phone in my hands in clear sight…and he only told me once. I did what he told me.”
Once the other officers arrive at the scene, they escort Estrada from inside the store and tell him they need his “information.” Then Officer Valdez gets in Estrada’s face: “The guy’s armed, three times my size, I’m telling you to back off,” Valdez tells Estrada.
Valdez said he retrieved a handgun from Trigiano, who reportedly has a concealed carry permit.
Then Valdez can be heard telling Estrada, “You’re going to be arrested.”
“For what?” Estrada asks.
“For, for, for, for, uh…” Valdez says, never stating the charge on the video.
Estrada was eventually charged with obstruction of justice and resisting arrest without violence, both misdemeanors. A spokesperson for the Miami-Dade Police Department told WFOR that “the arrest report speaks for itself, and Mr. Estrada is entitled to his day in court.”
Estrada’s lawyers, Frank Gaviria and Jonathan Perazzo, have taken his case free of charge. “At no point did he interfere, impede or obstruct the officer in the performance of his duties,” Gaviria told WFOR. “The video clearly shows Mr. Estrada was a very safe distance away from the officer.”
“Everybody’s walking around with cameras on their phones, and they should have a right to videotape officers in public,” Gaviria added.
“Just like police officers have their dash cams, private citizens have their cell phones. There’s no difference,” Perazzo told WFOR.
While Estrada has been convicted of driving with a suspended license as well as car theft eight years ago, Gaviria said those past charges are “irrelevant,” adding that Estrada is a hard-working father and that police in this case are in the wrong.
“The video speaks for itself,” Estrada said. “I complied with everything he (the officer) said for me to do.”
Miami-Dade police confirmed to TheBlaze that Estrada was separately arrested after the iPhone videotaping for violation of probation for driving with a suspended license. It was reported that he spent 10 days in jail for this charge, but TheBlaze could not confirm that information with either Miami-Dade or Broward County jail systems.