Miami–Dade County- 22-year-old Gilberto Powell, who has Down Syndrome and uses a colostomy bag, was walking home at 9pm Saturday night in Richmond Heights, Florida. Powell is black, and from this fact we may assume that what happened to him was perhaps the result of non-black police officers feeling that all African-Americans with Down Syndrome look the same. And they’re really dangerous. The following linked video is from a local Florida TV news station, and shows Powell’s elderly parents in conference with their lawyer, Philip Gold. Powell is quite clearly affected with mental retardation, and speaks with some trouble.
While the officers were cruising around looking for some of the many trouble-makers that populate south Florida, they saw instead Gilberto Powell and perceived a “bulge in his waist.” So they hopped out of their squad car and proceeded to pat the 5’3″, 150-pound man down. He resisted and most likely became frightened, and began to run away. For this act of insubordination—the police claim that he “struck one of the officers in the chest,” which is about silly and equivalent to saying that Powell did not do any striking at all, and was probably flailing—the police officers manhandled Powell to the ground, and gave him an “open-handed slap to the side of the face to subdue him.” In the process his colostomy bag was ripped from his body. The ugly damage the man suffered to his face was either from an open-hand slap of Herculean strength, some additional fisticuffs police will not cop to, or the impact of Powell hitting the street. Police are going with this last explanation.
While Powell was being ground into the pavement as well as his own waste containment bag, his father had come out from his home to protest and inform the police that his son had Down Syndrome. The family and Gold deny that Powell struck the officers.
“He’s a really nice kid, he wouldn’t hurt a fly,” Gold said. “Gilberto says he didn’t do anything wrong, he just wanted to go home…My understanding is that the officer that battered my client is working for the force, didn’t get suspended or anything. We would like to speak with the department, sit down with the department and talk about how they can make this better for my client and his family.”
They are not ruling out a lawsuit, and surgery may be required on the victim’s eye. While the specific picture above does not seem to reveal Powell as having quite the generic physical features of those with Down Syndrome, a viewing of the video available will show that there can be no mistaking the man’s condition. For more details, visit [CBS News]