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Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Relieved Of Duty, Under Investigation For Shoving Protester To The Ground

FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) -- A Fort Lauderdale police officer has been relieved of duty and is under investigation for his actions toward protesters on Sunday.

In a video posted to Twitter, the officer is seen becoming aggressive with protesters before shoving a woman, who was on her knees, to the ground.

The officer's colleagues quickly pushed him away from the woman and down the street.

It happened as a peaceful demonstration over the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, attended by about 1,000 people was dispersing, and smaller groups broke some store windows and sprayed graffiti.

The incident escalated in a clash where bottles were thrown and tear gas was fired.

Police Chief Rick Maglione said Monday that Officer Steven Pohorence pushed the woman as he and other officers moved in to rescue one colleague who had become surrounded and another from a patrol car that people began jumping on.

WATCH: Shoving Incident Caught On Camera


Maglione said Poherence's actions will be investigated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement before an internal investigation is conducted.

Maglione said he understands why some believe the shove provoked the crowd to throw bottles, but he said there were people in the crowd with bricks, bottles, fireworks and other weapons who were hoping to start a fight with officers.

"I don't think (Poherence's) action created what occurred ... we were in the process of an officer rescue that turned into another officer rescue," the chief said. But he said Poherence's actions "could have added to what was going on," and he commended Officer Krystle Smith who pushed Poherence away from the woman.

"She did what you are supposed to do: When you see either adrenaline or emotion or some kind of interaction going south ... that is our job to do, is intervene," he said.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said he felt the Poherence's actions were "offensive," and he's happy the department has suspended him.

"I thought that was something that should have never happened," the mayor said.

Demonstrator Samantha Sweeting Davis said she didn't see the shove, but heard yelling, then saw about six police cars arrive with their sirens on. Then she saw water bottles being thrown at the officers, heard an explosion, and felt tear gas burn her eyes and throat.

"The job of the police is first and foremost to protect and serve, yet there is a culture of mistrust and doubt. In a protest designed to speak to that, to see a cop do the opposite is almost too on the nose. It is so upsetting," the 29-year-old high school counselor from Fort Lauderdale said.

"Suspension is a great first step, but honestly I want to see the officer de-badged. If this is your impulse when you are in a situation that frustrates you, to push a woman on her knees, then you are in the wrong profession," she said.

The Fort Lauderdale Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents the city's officers, had no immediate comment Monday.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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