Officers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, are being investigated for their actions during a May 31 protest after body camera footage surfaced that appears to show them laughing and celebrating after shooting rubber bullets at protesters.
The footage, first obtained and reported on by the Miami Herald, showed members of a SWAT team shooting tear gas and then firing non-lethal projectiles into a group of protesters who threw bottles, a tear gas canister and other objects at the officers.
After dispersing the crowd, two of the officers are seen in the video laughing after shooting the protesters with rubber bullets and apparently referring to them using several curse words. During the conversation between the two officers, one of them apparently mistakenly believes their body camera is on standby mode and not recording.
The Fort Lauderdale police released the video after the Herald article was posted online.
Protesters in the May 31 demonstration following George Floyd's death have argued that Fort Lauderdale police escalated tensions and used unnecessary force. LaToya Ratlieff told reporters last month she was walking away from the protest when she was shot in the eye by a rubber bullet, a wound requiring 20 stitches. Floyd died in police custody in Minnesota on May 25.
"My situation isn't unique," Ratlieff told ABC affiliate WPLG on June 7.
Fort Lauderdale City Manager Chris Lagerbloom said in a statement that while he understood the intensity of the situation in the video, "as the officers were clearly under attack," he still was "troubled" by what he saw. Lagerbloom said he called on Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione to investigate the incident.
"The exchange recorded by the body cameras paints an unflattering yet truthful depiction of the chaos they were operating in. The language the officers used and sentiment expressed is not consistent with what the public expects from our police force," Lagerbloom said in a statement.
Maglione said his office is investigating over 8,000 minutes of body camera footage, including the video in question. He defended the officers’ actions in a statement released Wednesday.
"The entire video clearly demonstrates our officers were under attack by a group of people who chose to use violence instead of peace to antagonize the situation," he said. "Although the language is extreme and offensive to some, our officers were dealing with the chaos of a developing situation."