FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A Fort Lauderdale Police officer has been relieved of duty after he was captured on cellphone video pushing a kneeling protester on Sunday.
A news conference was held at the Fort Lauderdale Police Station on Monday morning.
Department officials spoke about the video, taken at Sunday night’s demonstration, that showed Officer Steven Pohorence shoving the protester near a parking garage along Second Street.
Moments later, another officer appeared to remove Pohorence from the scene.
Other witnesses said this incident is what started the confrontation between the protesters and Fort Lauderdale Police.
Willie Loud recorded the incident on his cellphone.
“When that happened, that kind of sparked the rage in everyone,” he said. “That’s when everything took a turn for the worse.”
The protester seen in the cellphone video later tweeted about the encounter. She wrote, “Very unfair the way he treated me, especially with this being a peaceful protest.”
Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione said the incident was a result of a sequence of events that they are trying to determine the order in which they unfolded.
Maglione said he doesn’t believe the officer’s actions started any type of confrontation, but he said it’s very possible that the officer’s actions escalated the situation.
“It could have. That’s a reasonable conclusion,” he said.
The chief added that there was an officer who was alone, felt threatened and called for backup. Another officer arrived to the scene and protesters jumped on her car and smashed in the windows.
At around the same time, the video of Pohorence pushing the demonstrator was taken, but FLPD is working to determine which event happened first.
“We have to put that timeline together,” Maglione said.
Pohorence has since been suspended while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducts an investigation into the incident.
“That officer has been removed from any contact with the public,” said Maglione. “He is relieved from duty basically while this matter is investigated. It is going to be investigated first and foremost to see if any Florida statutes were violated. In other words, a criminal investigation is going to commence that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is going to do. It’s not unusual in a case of police use of force.”
Protesters at the demonstration stand by what they said: that the officer started the confrontation.
“This is years and years and years of oppression that we are sitting here and fighting for,” Christine Olivo said Sunday.
“We know what happened to George Floyd is a symptom of a bigger system that needs to be changed,” Asa Rogers-Shaw said.
Following the incident, an hourslong standoff between protesters and police ensued. Agitators shot fireworks and threw bricks at officers, and police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said if investigators determine Pohorence crossed the line, the city will take swift action.
“We are not afraid to do that because if there’s a wrong done, we will act quickly,” he said.
7News has since requested the officer’s file.
Monday night, an attorney for the protester seen in the video said his client was injured as a result of Pohorence’s actions, and she is considering legal action against the officer.
Pohorence will likely have to face an administrative panel in order to keep his job.
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