MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Police in Miami Beach kicked off what was expected to be a busy spring break weekend by shooting pepper balls in order to disperse a crowd that had gathered around officers who were making an arrest.
The Miami Beach Police Department tweeted Friday night that two officers were injured and had to be taken to a hospital. They were released early Saturday but remained off-duty because of their injuries, the police department said in an emailed statement.
James Harrison, 19, of Brooklyn, was arrested on charges of battery on a police officer, resisting an officer with violence, inciting a riot and disorderly conduct. Harrison shouted obscenities at police officers when they tried to break up a crowd of more than 200 people that was blocking traffic, smoking cannabis and carrying around open containers, according to a police report released Saturday.
Harrison then pushed an officer and the crowd surrounded officers who were outnumbered at the intersection in the heart of Miami Beach’s famous nightclub and restaurant district, the police report said.
Two officers fired pepper balls “due to the large, aggressive, unruly crowd and the immediate posing threats to officer safety,” the police report said.
An officer body-slammed Harrison after Harrison grabbed the front collar of the officer’s police vest collar as the officer was trying to place the suspect in handcuffs, authorities said. The move was an attempt to release Harrison’s grip, the report said.
Once on the ground, Harrison started kicking and bracing his body to avoid being put in handcuffs, and an officer hit Harrison in the chest while another officer kneed him in the shoulder, the report said.
“It should be noted that defendant Harrison’s actions made the crowd extremely aggressive towards officers, posing a clear threat to their safety, due to the large number of unruly subjects present,” the police report said.
Harrison was taken to jail. It couldn’t be determined through online court records Saturday if Harrison had an attorney.
South Beach resident Kevin Green told the Miami Herald that said the confrontation began after a large crowd of at least 200 people gathered at an intersection to party.
“People were just having fun in that general area,” Green said. “It looked like people were doing Snapchat videos.”
Green said he then heard the pops of pepper balls being fired. He took cover behind a police vehicle as the crowd scattered.
“I heard a pop,” Green said. “A bunch of people started running.”