‘He was spitting in my face’ – Miami doctor who tests homeless for COVID-19 fumes over arrest

Ama Nunoo April 14, 2020
Photo: The Sun

As the world grapples with the harsh realities of the novel coronavirus, many people have reached out to support the most vulnerable people – the homeless. One of such persons is an African American doctor in Miami, who joins forces with other doctors and NGOs, to test the homeless for COVID-19.

Sadly, the doctor was arrested without cause in front of his home while offloading a van with supplies intended for the homeless, the Miami Herald reported.

The incident happened last Friday, three days shy of Miami-Dade Police Chief Jorge Colina announcing that about six law enforcement officers had tested positive for COVID-19, and a whopping 125 had been tested for the virus and were being quarantined awaiting their results.

The internal medicine physician at the University of Miami Health System, Dr. Armen Henderson, expressed immense concern for his health because the officer, who handcuffed him was not in any protective gear, and he told ABC News, that the sergeant was ‘all up in his face.’

Colina made a video statement appealing to the residents to adhere to safety measures to help protect the officers saying, “Please, stay inside, adhere to social distancing, wear a mask or a cloth face covering and be responsible. We’re here for you. Please do your part for us.”

Nonetheless, Dr. Henderson feels the arrest was unwarranted and it has made him vulnerable to the virus.

“He put me at risk,” Henderson said. “Now I feel like I should get tested, honestly. Most likely I will because he definitely was spitting in my face. I could feel it while he was yelling at me.”

The altercation between Henderson and the officer was caught on the CCTV in front of Henderson’s home. He said he was handcuffed by the officer when he couldn’t produce any form of identification. He added that the officer mentioned they were patrolling the area after residents complained about people dumping trash by the roadside.

Henderson, however, said he was offloading his van but that didn’t sit down well with the officer. “He said ‘you should refer to me as sir, or sergeant when talking to me.’ I never said I was a doctor. But I didn’t cuss. He just grabbed my arms and cuffed me,” Henderson said.

Before he was rid of the handcuffs, the officer is seen in the CCTV footage ‘jabbing his finger in the doctor’s face while talking to him’. It was at this point that he beckoned his wife, who was in their home with their two children to bring his identity card. Henderson said this could be a case of racial profiling.

“He didn’t apologize. He just got in his car and drove away,” Henderson told ABC News.

However, Colina has ordered an investigation into the incident. “Let me start by saying that the City of Miami Police Department does not condone or accept profiling of any kind,” Colina said in a video statement released on Saturday.

Chief Colina added, “We have had a litany of complaints pertaining to illegal dumping. The commissioner from that area has received many complaints as well from the constituents.

“There is a cargo van that’s parked in front of that home where there appears to be trash that’s being offloaded. That is the genesis of the stop. Now, what’s happened after that, what’s being discussed, the actions taken, etcetera…all that needs to be investigated and it will be investigated.”

The 34-year-old doctor was featured last month in Miami Herald for the work he and dozens of volunteers from three different NGOs were doing, combing the streets of Miami with COVID-19 test kits to take nasal swabs from the homeless.

Henderson and his group also gave out camping tents to those who needed them. He added that what they were doing could be “an act of civil disobedience, because the volunteers were actually defying an order from Miami-Dade County’s mayor to stay off the streets.”

Last Edited by:Kent Mensah Updated: April 14, 2020


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