Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Victor Ramirez gained widespread infamy when he slapped a homeless man suspected of trespassing in a public bus terminal last month and video of the incident went viral. But internal affairs files show that the "slap heard around the world" definitely wasn't the first time Ramirez got physical with bus station loiterers.
An 87-page internal affairs file documents nearly 40 incidents, a majority of which involve physical use of force, as well as a few Taser incidents (he has never been accused of shooting anybody). A pattern has emerged over his nine-year career: hitting, slamming, dropping, and sometimes even tasering people while working off-duty security around Fort Lauderdale.
Not including the most recent slap, Ramirez has ten documented use-of-force incidents while off-duty, with eight of them occurring at Broward Central Terminal -- the same place he slapped 58-year-old Bruce LaClair in the viral video.
In August 2012, Lauderhill resident Vera Brown was on her way to catch a bus when she saw Ramirez use his fists to hit a homeless man who was sitting on some steps in the terminal. Concerned, she filed a report against Ramirez soon after.
According to the internal-affairs files, Ramirez was asked by terminal security to remove a man from the Broward Central Terminal. Ramirez asked the man to leave but was ignored. He then used his foot to "tap" the man and order him to leave, but the man allegedly replied, "Drop me and take my life."
Because the man was apparently not in fear of a threat, Ramirez picked up the man's beer to motivate him to leave to leave, but the man "aggressively" grabbed the beer. Ramirez then stepped on the man's hands to prevent him from grabbing the other beer cans, and when the man resisted arrest, the cop used a "hand strike" to subdue and arrest him.
Nearly three years later, Brown remembers she saw Ramirez unnecessarily hit a man who was not posing a physical threat and she was compelled to report it.
"I was shocked," Brown tells New Times. "Why would he do that? I thought it was disgusting, really. Police officers -- we're supposed to look up to them, you know?"
Brown saw the recent video and although surprised it happened to be the same cop she reported back in 2012, she wasn't too shocked that the behavior was repeated after her report. After all, Ramirez was never disciplined -- nor was he for any of his other incidents.
"They didn't do anything back then, and I waited and waited, but nothing happened," she says. "Eventually, I just let it go."
But the allegations of off-duty excessive force go back to 2008, when Ramirez was a sophomore cop.
In June 2008, Ramirez suspected a woman of loitering at the bus terminal and told her to leave. When she refused, he began taking her into custody. But she refused, and Ramirez used an "arm bar takedown technique" to subdue the woman, according to the IA report.
In December 2008, Ramirez tazed a man who was allegedly getting out of control after being put under arrest for trespassing at the terminal. While in the back of the squad car, the man kicked out a window. Ramirez then used his Taser to prevent any more window-shattering.
In January 2009, Ramirez was once again doing off-duty work at the terminal when he noticed a man sipping on a can of beer. In a very short summary of the incident, the thirsty gentleman "resisted arrest by pulling away and struggling." Ramirez then utilized "hand techniques to gain his compliance."
A few months later in April, Ramirez again used the "arm-bar" to take down a bus station trespasser:
During the initial encounter with the suspect, Officer Ramirez felt he was very defiant and aggressive, so Officer Ramirez immediately took him to the ground upon sight in order to avoid a fight."
And then in June 2009, Ramirez told a suspected trespasser to leave the terminal at around 7 a.m. Around noon, the man returned to try his luck at a little panhandling. Ramirez then tried to place the man under arrest. But the man became "verbally belligerent" and threatened to cause bodily harm to Ramirez if he wasn't released, the IA file says. After the man resisted Ramirez's grasp, the off-duty Fort Lauderdale cop responded like this: "Officer Ramirez grabbed him by the hair and arm and took him to the ground. Officer Ramirez pinned him to the ground with his knee and awaited responding back-up units to arrive."
The next reported bus station occurrence didn't happen until he was reported for the August 2012 incident that involved Ramirez stepping on a man's hands to prevent him from picking up a beer can.
Over the next two years, Ramirez had four more off-duty security incidents, including two at the Broward Central Terminal, one at a Winn-Dixie, and one at Broward General Hospital.
The Winn-Dixie incident happened in December, 2012, when Ramirez, working private security for the grocery store, tackled a man who was suspected of shoplifting $13 worth of beef.
And in January 2014, Ramirez was working a private security detail at Broward General Hospital when a man was allegedly being rude and belligerent to the staff. Ramirez told the man to calm down, but the man, who was a patient at the hospital, didn't listen.
Instead, the IA file says he "got up from his bed and walked towards Officer Ramirez with his hands in a defiant manner and stated, 'What the fuck are you going to do to me?'" At that point, according to the IA file, Ramirez took out his Taser and shot two probes into the man's chest. Ramirez then arrested the man.
A security supervisor at Broward General Hospital who asked not to be named said it's not unusual for patients to get belligerent with staff but explained that it was "extremely rare" for security staff to use a Taser on a patient.
The latest incident happened in January of this year and also involved a Taser. Ramirez, again working off-duty security at Broward Central Terminal, was trying to apprehend a man who was allegedly fighting with another man. After breaking up the altercation, the suspect walked away but then became "aggressive" to a bystander and then Ramirez. When the man got in a "fighting stance" with Ramirez, the Fort Lauderdale cop busted out his Taser and tazed the man for six seconds before placing him under arrest.
We reached out to Craig Collins, head of security for Broward Central Terminal, about Ramirez's record at the bus station but did not get a response.
Ramirez has been on paid administrative leave since the February incident that was caught on video. He has since maintained his slap on LaClair was legitimate and necessary. Meanwhile, people have protested his actions and demanded he be fired.
Keep New Times Broward-Palm Beach Free... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering South Florida with no paywalls.