UPDATE: A federal jury awarded Refus Holloway $15,500 after he was kicked and punched by an Orlando police officer while being handcuffed in the Parramore community. Despite the negative narrative about the historic African-American neighborhood pushed by Orlando police at trial, after two days of deliberation, the jury ruled that former OPD officer William Escobar did use excessive force and did cause injury to the victim. A request for all legal fees to be paid by the City of Orlando, the police union or Escobar will also now be filed with the court.
In order to fend off the latest case of excessive force, the Orlando Police Department decided to put the Parramore community on trial instead of focusing on the actions of their own officers. Police are actually claiming the reason they are so aggressive in the Parramore neighborhood is because the area is so dangerous and crime-ridden that officers have that level of fear before they even arrive to the neighborhood. How’s that for community relations?
Closing arguments in the federal trial of Refus Holloway, et al. v. William Escobar are set for tomorrow, Friday, September 9th at 10AM. This case stems from a police encounter in March 2014 where OPD officers responded to a “disturbance call” and eventually arrested Holloway’s cousin a few steps from his front door. Holloway was subsequently arrested and beaten when he asked why his cousin was arrested.
Holloway, a veteran, was in handcuffs when officer Escobar struck him twice with a closed fist and kicked him. The officer then drug Holloway viciously across the ground before almost dislocating his shoulder. Holloway was also pepper sprayed.
Affidavits from officers Escobar and his partner were exposed to be inaccurate depictions of what happened after video of the incident was made public by Holloway’s sister. The police then released body camera video of the incident.
To justify the use of excessive force, officers are seeking to justify their actions by saying it was reasonable for them to believe Holloway was a threat because the arrest occurred in Parramore, which they claim is known for violence.
“From what I can see, the officers seems to want to make this trial about Parramore, that because it is known for crime and violence, the officers were justified to think that Mr. Holloway and other observers would be violent towards them, so they were authorized to use violence against Mr. Holloway,” said attorney Carlus Leandrus Haynes.
Officers’ claims also do not add up to the narrative being pushed by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Commissioner Regina Hill or other politicians. One-third of Parramore is owned by the City of Orlando. This area will be the home of the future Major League Soccer stadium and it’s the future home of Creative Village and UCF Downtown, but it is so dangerous and crime-ridden even the Orlando police fear when they go in the area? This is where UCF Downtown campus will be based?
So, which version of Parramore is it? Who is telling the truth? The Orlando Police Department or the politicians like Mayor Dyer? Through all the spin and lies, the Parramore community and residents of the City of Orlando end up losing the most unfortunately.
“I feel like the officers believe they can trample on our rights, just because of where we may live. That we are bad people somehow based on our economic status,” Haynes added. “What happened to all men being created equal? Isn’t the law and law enforcement supposed to protect everyone, regardless of race, status, gender, or other differences?”
Based on the judge’s interpretation of the federal rules of evidence, certain evidence will not be presented to the jury, including the fact that Officer Escobar was fired due to his actions. The jury will also not learn that there are previous allegations of excessive force levied against Escobar, one case left a suspect with a broken jaw. Also, Escobar is currently seeking reinstatement as an officer with OPD, something Chief John Mina had rejected but the decision is in arbitration.
Other officers on the scene also submitted false reports to back up Escobar at the time and they remain at OPD and were not punished. Critics say this is another example of how Chief Mina is not serious about changing the culture.
“It is truly disturbing that the latest national statistics indicate that the Orlando Police Department is number one in the State of Florida and third in the nation for police excessive force cases,” said Lawanna Gelzer, President of the National Action Network Central Florida Chapter. “These ongoing failures of the OPD are alarming and unacceptable.”
The all white jury will take the case after closing arguments. Stay tuned.