The arrest of Safiya Satchell might have gone down as another anonymous case — were it not for the bystander video that showed a Miami Gardens police officer reach into her SUV, drag her out, press his knee on her neck and stun her twice with a Taser.
This video, as have similar clips of police brutality across the country, is jarring and on Thursday spurred state authorities to arrest now-fired Officer Jordy Yanes Martel on charges of battery.
He was also charged with official misconduct for filing two reports containing false details about his interaction outside a strip club with Satchell, 33, on Jan. 14. He had arrested her on charges of battery on a cop and resisting with violence — charges that have since been dismissed.
“If you’re an officer that has broken policy or acted under color of law with a belief that Black lives don’t matter, you ought to be looking over your shoulder because the chickens have finally come home to roost,” said her lawyer, Jonathan Jordan. “My client deserves to witness justice be served in this prosecution against this former officer where so many others in her position have not been as fortunate.”
Satchell is African American. Martel is Hispanic.
The arrest also comes as protests against police brutality have unfolded across the nation following the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis cop pressed his knee on his neck for more than eight minutes. Martel, a police officer for less than two years, surrendered Thursday morning and was booked into the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center.
“As a result of Martel’s actions, Ms. Satchel suffered abrasions to her stomach from the Tasers, bruises and abrasions on her arms and bruises on her legs,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle said Thursday afternoon. “By filing these criminal charges today against former Miami Gardens officer Jordy Yanes Martel, we are saying that these actions are just plain wrong.”
The officer’s defense lawyer ripped the arrest, saying Martel was “punched in the mouth” by a woman who was “clearly intoxicated.”
Attorney Douglas Hartman also said the case was politically motivated — Fernández Rundle is running for reelection, and has been pilloried by protesters for her record on police use-of-force cases. Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert, who is running for a county commission seat, was also on hand for Thursday’s press conference.
“It’s an overreaction. Clearly, it’s a political move by Ms. Rundle’s Office,” Hartman said.
Martel’s arrest is but the latest in South Florida of an officer accused of using excessive force during an encounter with someone in public. Over the past couple of years, Miami-Dade prosecutors have charged a slew of officers over kicks and slaps of handcuffed suspects — but so far, three of them have been acquitted.
The encounter between Martel and Satchell began early on the morning of Jan. 14.
Satchell, a graduate from Temple University who hails from Philadelphia, and a friend, Raheam Staats-Fleming, were at the Tootsies Cabaret strip club. She got into an argument with a manager over food. He refused to refund her money and she left, throwing money at a waitress.
The manager, Salem Kamareddine, went to Martel and Sgt. Arthur King, who were working off-duty security and asked that she be issued a trespassing warning to prevent her from coming back to the club.
Satchell got into her Mercedes SUV, her friend in the passenger seat. But a security guard stood in front of the SUV, preventing her from leaving.
Martel walked up to the driver’s side and asked to speak to the woman. She gave him her ID and asked why. According to prosecutors, the officer asked Satchell to come to his patrol car, so he could issue her a trespassing warning.
“There is no evidence to indicate that the victim was being arrested for trespass or any other offense at this point in the encounter,” according to an arrest warrant by Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent Gaylon White, and prosecutor Kerrie Crockett.
According to the officer’s body-camera recording, Satchell asked if she could drive to the cop car because she was not wearing shoes. Martel, clearly agitated, began jawing back at her. She replied she was recording and that her father was a longtime police officer.
“I don’t care about that. ... Get your shoes on and come with me,” he said.
As Staats-Fleming video recorded on his phone, Martel reached into her car through the window. Using her hands, she tried to stop him from opening the door.
In his arrest report, he claimed that she closed the window on his hand, then began “striking me.” Once out of the SUV, he claimed, she resisted by “tensing and kicking,” then punched him on the lip.
Prosecutors said he dragged her out, swept her leg so she fell on her back and put his knee on her neck. Then, he twice used a Taser gun, stunning her in the belly.
Defense lawyers for Satchell turned over the video — taken by Satchell’s friend — to Miami-Dade prosecutors and FDLE several weeks ago.
Investigators determined that the video showed Martel’s arrest report contained a slew of false statements, including that he was “helping” her out of the SUV and that Satchell was kicking, they said.
“We felt very strongly that what he wrote in his affidavit and the incident report was completely made up,” Fernández Rundle said. She said of the video: “We’re not always fortunate to have this kind of evidence.”
Martel and another officer, Jaiver Castano, were fired last week, although Miami Gardens police have not said why. The two had been involved in another rough arrest at a RaceTrac gas station. Both officers had less than two years of experience on the force.
“I’m not one of those folks that’s going to tell you we don’t need police. We do need police,” Mayor Gilbert said. “I’m one of those folks that’s going to tell you that we give police officers professional salaries, we train, and we give them professional standards. If they violate those professional standards, then we will terminate them.”