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Officer who shot woman with rubber bullet during Fort Lauderdale protest exonerated



FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. – A Fort Lauderdale Police detective who was under scrutiny after he shot a woman in the eye with a rubber bullet during a 2020 protest has been exonerated following an internal affairs investigation.

Speaking with reporters on Thursday, FLPD Interim Chief Patrick Lynn discussed investigators’ findings.

“We have worked together all the facts of this case for a clear understanding of what occurred,” he said.

Cellphone video captured the tense moments demonstrators clashed with officers in downtown Fort Lauderdale on May 31 during a march in protest of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis Police officers earlier in the year.

One of the protesters, LaToya Ratlieff, was hit in the eye by an officer’s rubber bullet at the intersection of Southeast Second Street and First Avenue, breaking her socket and requiring months of treatment.

Ratlieff talked about her recovery in a Feb. 11 interview.

“I still have some vision issues, specifically some of my upper vision. I still have trouble driving at night,” she said.

Lynn had a message for Ratlieff.

“To Ms. Ratlieff, on behalf of the men and women of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, I want to express my sincerest apology,” he said.

Lynn said the investigation of the incident focused on FLPD detective Eliezer Ramos, who fired the rubber bullet.

“The review involved taking nearly 30 sworn statements, reviewing hundreds of hours of body-worn camera footage, several walk-throughs of the incident’s location and soliciting the contracted service of an independent use-of-force expert,” he said.

The expert focused on photos showing a person identified as an “unsub,” or unknown subject, who was close to Ratlieff on the street. That person, investigators said, picked up a police tear gas canister and threw it at officers.

Firing on that person, the expert said, is consistent with policies and training.

That finding led investigators to conclude Ramos did not violate department policy because he was aiming at a violent protester and did not intend to hit Ratlieff.

Thursday afternoon, Michael Davis, an attorney for Ratlieff, criticized the outcome of the internal affairs investigation.

“Detective Ramos was not firing to protect his life. He was not firing to protect the lives of his officers, and he was not firing to protect the life of anyone else or any property,” he said. “The use of deadly force under this circumstance was inappropriate and unlawful, and we wish the investigation would have explored that issue.”

The probe also determined two other FLPD officers violated department policy for their use of vulgar and offensive language while in an official capacity.

“The department has made every effort to learn from this incident,” said Lynn.

But Davis said he is not convinced.

“This investigation was incomplete. It was a sham investigation,” he said.

Davis said his client is has not ruled out filing a lawsuit against the city, adding that she has other ideas that she would like to talk about with officials concerning the relationship between the community and the police department. She plans to return on Friday morning to the intersection where the shooting took place to talk about these ideas publicly.

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