Officer Who Punched Passenger In Face At Miami Airport Won’t Be Charged

A year and a half ago a black woman at the Miami airport yelled at an office with an Hispanic surname that he was really black. She yelled at him, and may have been drunk.

The officer, Antonio Rodriguez, “snaps and punches the woman in the face. He then throws his hands on her and brings her to the ground as officers in the background shout ‘Woah, woah’.” He then claimed “she headbutted me” though the video shows that wasn’t true.

After the incident the question of whether to prosecute the officer for assault fell to the State’s Attorney – whom I noted at the time had never charged an officer for an on duty fatal shooting in 27 years – so, I said, “good luck with that.”

The police union president, defending the officer, claimed that the passenger was at fault, and deserved the beat down, since (1) she was asked to leave and (2) attacked his fist with her face “pushe[d] her face right into his face.”

She initially faced charges of felony battery of a law-enforcement officer, but those charges were dropped. Publicly available video clearly established there was no basis for the charge. The officers that supported the charge should have been disciplined for doing so.

The passenger isn’t blameless here for provoking a confrontation, of course. The problem is that police officers can be given a pass because they take on potentially dangerous duty, rather than being held to a higher standard because they’re entrusted with force of law (‘with great power comes great responsibility’). Qualified immunity is a problem. So are contracts that wipe disciplinary records on renewal and procedures that hide disciplinary records from defense counsel.

No one should be surprised – since I told you to expect it – that the State’s Attorney declined to prosecute the officer, determining he wasn’t obligated to retreat from the situation and could have believed he was in danger though the video shows no reasonable physical threat. Slapping her appeared to be a response to her insult rather than any threat.

We ask a lot of police officers – but that’s exactly what we should expect. In the U.S. they carry guns, and we saw one drawn a the Miami airport just this week. We should expect restraint and de-escalation – and accountability, at a minimum when an officer trumps up charges against someone that they hit first in order to justify their own misconduct.

(HT: @crucker)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Amen.
    She provoked him but the police officer should be held accountable for assault.

    If someone insults me and I punch them maybe they deserve it but that doesn’t mean it’s ok for me to do.

    Sends the wrong message to everyone when you expect less from a police officer than an average citizen.

  2. Police in this country have too much power. This video makes me sick. I feel safer traveling to many so called “third world countries” than I feel traveling to Florida.

  3. Alan- Really? Maybe you should go live elsewhere, then maybe you would get to experience how police in third world countries handle this type of behavior. Do you realize if this female had not of verbally assaulted the officer that none of this would have happened?

  4. Hmmm. “Sticks and stones…”. I have known officers skilled at deescalation. Top notch, and aggressive when actually needed. This was not one of those.

  5. Regardless, it was pretty funny watching the officer pop that big-mouthed moron in the face. Shut her up right quick.

  6. Good deal, more people need to be punched in the head to wake them up!
    Post up outside the Spirit gates and play whack a chump.

  7. Absolutely sick. Yes it’s a very stressful job and this is an awful time, but slugging somebody for shouting in your face? When you’re sworn to protect the public? That’s assault, pure and simple. This is exactly why we need people trained in psychological problems to handle non-violent crisis interventions. Police officers, many with the best of intentions, simply are not trained for this kind of work. Obviously there was no one around to take that job here, but ask yourself. It was a little kid doing this would it be okay to punch them? Why should an adult who is out of control but not violent be handled any differently?

  8. You are correct about this event being assault, but you got the assault wrong – the woman verbally assaulted the officer and she received just punishment for her assault. An officer is there to enforce the law, not to play social worker to rude cretins who instigate events.

  9. Umm how does the video show no reasonable physical threat? Please just stop. You clearly have no experience in law enforcement or the legal world. If someone is inches away from your face and yelling at you they are clearly a reasonable physical threat. You also left out several key facts of the story. She wasn’t asked to leave just once. She was repeatedly asked to leave the airport. She was not allowed on the plane because she was belligerent and drunk. They were not letting her fly that day and she got into it with the counter staff so they called the police. She was given chance after chance to leave and refused to do so. Something else you failed to mention is that prior to this she threatened to punch the airline agent. So again when you claim there was no reasonable physical threat it makes zero sense. The threat was very real given all the circumstances. Should it have been handled differently? Sure but there was nothing criminal in the officers actions here. He used reasonable force for someone who was coming at him.

  10. That woman was rude, aggressive and stupid. The last thing that any respectful, self-aware citizen should do is walk up to and get in the face of a police officer (while arguing with him) and then say “What you gonna do?!?” That’s when he punched her and took her down.

    Did the officer use excessive force? Yes. Was the woman stupid and foolish for provoking (and baiting) him into doing it? Yes.

  11. We can debate whether it was the correct protocol for the officer (and it wasn’t). Still, she asked for it, she got it, and I have to admit that I don’t have a problem with this.

  12. The comments here make me sad. I work in what is often a high stress job too. Not everyone I come into contact with is respectful and some are downright obnoxious and unruly. Customer facing work is like that. We are regularly trained on managing conflict and, where applicable, evaluated on our ability to de-escalate challenging situations. The officer here is a disgrace to his position and to those many fine law enforcement officers who conduct themselves professionally. He should have been charged.

  13. DavdS – and you are wrong. She verbally assaulted the officer, got in his face and rudely labeled him. If she had of conducted herself like a decent person, none of this would have transpired. She made the confrontation personal and, by doing so, got what she deserved. Possibly, in the future, she will deal with people in a sane, decent manner.


  15. You are being too kind to the police. Remember, they decide to enforce leftist laws from gun control to taxation to drug laws to forced diversity laws to mask laws to speech control. Until they are replaced with people who won’t, they don’t deserve any respect. People like this woman only can terrorize the public because cops in the first place enforce court orders and laws that force people like her into every facet of our lives. Cops don’t have a dangerous job. It’s much more dangerous to be a civilian facing thugs and facing cops who equally like to do bad.

  16. Jackson – Your response is one of the most ignorant responses i have had the misfortune to read. Police DO have a dangerous job. This woman is indicative of the delusional leftist liberal mindset that has permeated our nation. The police have their hands tied because of liberal DemocRatic so-called leadership that is tearing apart out nation.

  17. Why do people have to act like such animals? Play stupid games win stupid prizes. She got what she deserved. Glad none of the officers were injured over her uncivilized behavior.

  18. Y’all are all insane and are prejudiced. The law is clear. If anyone on this comment section acted the way the officer acted you would’ve been booked for assault. You do not have the right to respond to verbal abuse with physical assault. The law does not allow that. This country’s romanticization of cops and guns is gross.

  19. @Andre, thanks for your comment. I am stunned by how many justify police reacting to words with physical assault. He has a tough job and his feelings were hurt, but his reaction was totally unacceptable. I would be fired on the spot if I did that and would undoubtedly face criminal charges.

  20. On a legal/technical basis, the decision to prosecute was correct:

    An officer can use non-deadly force if he is being assaulted. “Assault” does not require physical contact. To the contrary, “assault” is a reasonable apprehension of an imminent offensive touching, even though no physical contact has yet occurred.

    Based on the video, reasonable jurors could believe the officer could reasonably apprehend the woman would imminently make some form of offensive physical contact, which would trigger the right to use non-deadly force to prevent that from happening.

    A criminal case should only be filed if the prosecutor believes the case can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, i.e., no reasonable person would believe the officer reasonably apprehended the woman would imminently make some form of offensive physical contact.

    Since reasonable doubt exists, the case should not be filed.

    On a moral/philosophical level, I also have no problem with what happened to this woman. People have been emboldened by BLM/Antifa riot videos to think there are never any consequences for behavior unthinkable just a few short years ago, and that officers can be assaulted with impunity. Well, sometimes Karma is a bitch!

  21. While I was in uniform and carried a gun I would have expected to receive punishment or been fired for what that officer did. I faced many delusional characters and criminals who I wanted to beat the hell out but knew better. It always worked out that I didn’t use violence. The officer should have given her a warning and backed away. If the woman persisted he should have put her under arrest for disorderly and other possible charges.
    Most of you have never been there.
    @David R. Miller
    Right, only left leaning liberals have torn apart our nation, not Chump Fools. Too bad.
    @Jackson Waterson
    Yo, jack you’re at it again. Nuts as usual.

  22. in other “crime at airports” news, a bullet hole and the bullet was found in the fuselage of a United A319 at Denver. Police are investigating but the presumption it was fired on outside of the airport’s secured area.

  23. @Rog
    “….in uniform and carried a gun” So in other words, you weren’t a police officer. We’re you a mall ninja or were you one of Jeremy Dewitte’s boys doing “high risk” funeral escorts in Orlando?

  24. @Chris
    Neither and I have never heard of Dewitt. Does that bother you? I’m sure you served your country by being a know it all smart ass.

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