Yadiel Torres perched nervously on the edge of the roof of his friend’s house as police surrounded him in March. It was roughly a nine-foot drop to the manicured green lawn below, and from his vantage point, he could look into the backyards of neighboring homes in the Orlando suburb of Kissimmee, Fla. One officer had clambered up the roof after him, while two others waited on the ground, their hands on their stun guns. The lanky 18-year-old dangled one leg, looking as though he was contemplating his options.
“Push him off the roof,” Kissimmee Police Sgt. Anthony Amada called from the yard. “Push him off. Just push him off.”
Body-camera video released Wednesday by the Kissimmee Police Department shows that Torres, who had been accused of absconding with his ex-girlfriend’s car, offered to climb back into the house through an open window. But Officer Plenio Massiah, who had followed the suspect onto the roof, obeyed his supervisor’s orders. Planting one hand on Torres’s upper back, he gave the teenager a firm shove and sent him flying. The 18-year-old hit the ground with a thud, and Amada rushed over and stunned him with a Taser.
“I’m not resisting, bro,” Torres pleaded, as police cuffed him.
Although Torres wasn’t hurt by the fall, the March 3 standoff “could have resulted in significant injury,” the Kissimmee Police Department acknowledged in an internal investigation released to localmediaoutlets Wednesday. The 41-page report, which followed a seven-month investigation, concluded that pushing a suspect off a roof went against departmental policies governing the use of force and was generally a bad idea.
But for the two officers involved, the consequences have been minimal. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Massiah was given an eight-hour suspension, which he fulfilled by giving up a vacation day. Amada, who the investigators recommended be fired, had handed in his notice in June. At the time of his resignation, the 14-year veteran was facing another, unrelated complaint alleging excessive use of force, and had recently been suspended for another incident in which he was deemed to have acted carelessly during a police pursuit, the paper reported.
The March confrontation on the rooftop came after Torres’s ex-girlfriend called police to report that he had been driving her car without her permission for a week. According to charging documents, the two argued on Feb. 24 about whether she would give him a ride. The dispute grew so heated that the woman got out of the car and walked home, leaving Torres in a post office parking lot with her silver Toyota Corolla.
The next morning, she told police, she contacted Torres on Facebook and asked for the car back. He refused.
A week later, when she still didn’t have her Toyota back, Torres’s ex-girlfriend contacted the police, saying a friend of hers had spotted the car parked in a Kissimmee subdivision. When officers showed up at the beige stucco house on March 3, they spotted Torres inside. He made a beeline up the stairs, police wrote.
Thinking he might escape through a window, they ran to the other side of the house, only to discover the teen was on the roof. In his affidavit, Officer Patrick Smith wrote that Torres looked ready to jump but seemed to change his mind when he saw police waiting for him on the ground.
“Sgt. Amada and I as well as Officer Massiah pleaded with Yadiel to surrender several times but he refused so Officer Massiah nudged him off the roof because he was not complying with a law order to stop resisting,” Smith wrote. He added that after hitting the ground, Torres “appeared as if he was going to get up,” so Amada deployed his stun gun.
Court records show that Torres was arrested for third-degree grand theft of a motor vehicle, resisting an officer without violence and violating the terms of his pretrial release for a misdemeanor domestic violence charge from January. He pleaded guilty to all three offenses in May and was sentenced to a year and a half of supervised probation.
The body-camera video released on Wednesday shows the officers’ attempts to get Torres to surrender consisted of repeatedly encouraging him to jump off the roof. “You’re going to get Tased and you’re going to fall, so you better jump,” the 18-year-old was told. According to the Sentinel, Torres told internal affairs investigators he ignored the command because he was afraid of getting hurt.
In their report, officials noted Massiah was following orders when he pushed the teenager off the roof, WFTV reported. The officer, who had no prior disciplinary violations, told investigators he feared both he and Torres would fall off the roof if they started tussling. Police also reportedly said Torres’s ex-girlfriend had warned authorities he might be armed, a detail that did not appear in the initial charging documents from the incident.
The potential consequences for Amada were more severe because investigators felt that he should have known better after 14 years on the force.
“Personnel who have reached a supervisory position are held to even greater standards than officers or civilian personnel because their guidance, influence and knowledge contribute to the overall success of the department,” officials wrote in a memo obtained by the Sentinel.