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Family Hires Attorney After Police Scuffle With Special Needs Man

RICHMOND HEIGHTS (CBS4) - Family members of a man with Down Syndrome who was allegedly battered by a Miami-Dade police officer, have hired an attorney in what they say is a case of bullying and excessive force.

According to the police report, two Miami-Dade officers stopped Gilberto Powell, 22, in his Richmond Heights neighborhood while he was walking home at around 9 p.m. on Saturday.

During that time, the patrol officers stopped Powell because they saw a "bulge in (Powell's) waist band," the report said. That's when police, "decided that a pat-down should be conducted."

While attempting to pat him down, police said Powell "pushed off the vehicle and attempted to flee."

After police gave "multiple commands to stop moving in attempt to handcuff him," he "fell on the ground and struck his forehead," officers wrote in the incident report.

Still ignoring their loud verbal commands "to stop resisting and obey," police said Powell struck one of the officers in the chest and attempted to flee.

That officer then "struck the left side of (Powell's) face with an open hand in an attempt to subdue him."

Powell was by his house when he was handcuffed, according to the family's attorney Philip Gold.

The officers finally determined the bulge in Powell's pants was his medical colostomy bag, and Powell's family says police pulled it from his body.

Powell's father, Gilberto Hernandez told CBS4's Natalia Zea he ran out of the house when he realized what was happening to his son.

"I ran out yelling 'hey hey what are you doing to him? He's Down Syndrome! Leave him alone! What are you doing?' And when I got over there not one minute later his face was all busted up and he was in handcuffs."

Hernandez couldn't believe what he was seeing.

"I felt helpless, 'cause he was calling my name....He's my baby, I go he goes, anywhere I go he goes with me."

Gold said such a force by officer was not necessary.

"This is a case of excessive force and this may be a case of discrimination," Gold said.

Gold said Richmond Heights is historically a black community and his "client was walking down the street from his own house when the police officers stopped him."

He added that Powell, "Is hard to understand. They asked him what he had on him and he said a phone… he showed them a phone."

In the police report, the officers reported that Powell was "not capable of understanding their commands," and he was not arrested.

Powell was taken to Jackson Memorial South Hospital after the incident.

Gold said the family is shocked by the incident adding that Powell called his father earlier to say he was coming home and to open the door for him.

"They're shocked that this would happen, or even could happen, and they are very emotional because they've spent Gilberto's life caring for him and he's someone who requires a lot of care and his parents have done that for him," Gold said. "And when they witnessed it they came outside the house to see what had happened. They are an emotional wreck to see their baby boy harmed."

Gold said that the next thing they saw when they stepped outside was Powell being body slammed and stripped. He said the family also told him that police ripped out Powell's colostomy bag and punch him in the face.

"The father kept telling me, 'Why would this happen to him?' He wouldn't hurt a fly," Gold said.

Gold said Powell has Down Syndrome and is loved around the community. He said Powell told him that he "just wanted to go home and the cop is bad."

"He's never going to truly communicate how bad this was, but I can tell you that it's inexcusable, unjustified form and it's brutality," Gold said.

Powell's family is considering filing a lawsuit, and is meeting with Miami-Dade Police and they want something else.

"I'd like an apology for me and my family, and really I'm just doing this to make sure this doesn't happen to any other little kid or anybody," said Hernandez.

Gold said the department has six months to investigate the case before he makes the next move.

The police department released a statement saying, "The Miami-Dade Police Department continues to investigate the incident involving Mr. Gilberto Powell.  The integrity of the investigation and successful resolution of this case continues to remain our highest priority.  As a result, the investigation remains active and ongoing; therefore, we cannot provide additional information at this time."

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