Fort Lauderdale officer who pushed down kneeling protester charged with battery

FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A Fort Lauderdale Police officer who was seen on video pushing down a kneeling protester now faces a battery charge.

Broward State Attorney Mike Satz announced Tuesday that officer Steven Pohorence, 29, was charged with battery for “intentionally touching or striking” the 19-year-old woman by “pushing [the victim] to the ground,” according to court records.

The charge is a first-degree misdemeanor, which carries a maximum punishment of up to one year in jail.

The incident took place May 31 near a parking garage along Second Street in downtown Fort Lauderdale during a Black Lives Matter protest held days after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Danielle Casey, the protester’s mother, spoke with 7News Tuesday evening.

“A first-degree misdemeanor, to me, is just not severe enough,” she said.

Cellphone video recorded the moment Pohorence appeared to shove the protester to the side before he was taken away by another officer.

“We are out here standing up for peace, for everyone to come together, and you display actions like these?” said Casey. “To literally, blatantly shove her to the ground, that is not right.”

This is not the first time Pohorence has come under scrutiny. Back in September 2019, the department said, body camera video showed the officer appearing to put his knee on the back of a man during an arrest.

In another incident, body camera footage shows Pohorence appearing to place his knee on the neck of a man who refused to get off a transit bus.

Officials said investigators wanted to review the evidence and examine the victim’s injuries to ensure they were consistent with the charge Pohorence is facing.

“The Florida Department of Law Enforcement was sent those video clips. They agreed that it warranted further inquiry,” said Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione.

Michael Dutko, Pohorence’s attorney, said that in the case of the rally, no one should judge his client by a short video.

“There’s more that goes on, and more that goes into an officer’s concerns when they’re in the street dealing with dangerous situations than what is ordinarily depicted on the video,” he said during a phone interview.

Dutko said he wonders why the protester knelt behind Pohorence.

“I want to see the statement, I want to see what other people say as far as the circumstances that existed at the time and why she was there in that position,” he said.

Casey, however, said the video provides an accurate representation of what happened.

“Her and a few other protesters were already on their knees with their hands raised,” she said. “He walked into the crowd, turned around and then shoved her.”

“Look, policing is difficult, and it’s not always pretty when you’re watching at 6 o’clock with your family watching the news,” said Dutko. “Policing sometimes requires some difficult decisions.”

Pohorence, who has been with Fort Lauderdale Police since 2016, was suspended while FDLE conducted an investigation into the incident. He had been suspended with pay, but after his arrest, he is now on administrative leave without pay.

A court appearance has not yet been set.

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