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Video: Miami firefighter who punched man on hospital gurney unlikely to face charges

“If he never learned the consequences of spitting in a grown man’s face, then consider my actions a public education,” the firefighter told Telemundo


A source familiar with the incident said Miami firefighter Lt. Robert Webster will not face charges for an October incident at Jackson Memorial Hospital in which he was seen punching a man, who police said spit on him.

Photo/Emily Michot/Tribune News Service

By Charles Rabin, Joey Flechas
Miami Herald

MIAMI — The Miami firefighter suspended two months ago after being seen on video punching a man handcuffed to a gurney at Jackson Memorial Hospital, is not likely to be prosecuted, a law enforcement source familiar with the investigation said.

The firefighter, whose name has not been publicly released, was relieved of duty after the Oct. 15 incident caught on hospital video. According to a police report, Antonio Cruz, 29, a homeless man who had been taken to the hospital after Miami Fire Rescue said he consumed cocaine and heroin, instigated the fracas by spitting on the face of the firefighter.

In the hospital video, initially shown by several television stations, the firefighter can be seen casually standing near a desk not far from other firefighters and police officers wheeling Cruz through the corridor. Cruz appears to look towards the firefighter and say something.

“The man was belligerent,” said a law enforcement source briefed on the case. “He was screaming names. Then he spit at the firefighter.”

The firefighter immediately responds throwing several punches, at least two of which appeared to connect to the man who was handcuffed to the gurney. Officers intervened, pulling the firefighter away and pushing the man towards a door in the hallway. Cruz’s arrest report said his spit struck the firefighter on the right side of his face and that the officer responded and struck Cruz with a closed fist.

Cruz was charged with aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer. Miami-Dade Corrections records show he remained jailed Wednesday, two months after the incident.

Miami Fire Rescue released a brief statement about the incident, saying an internal investigation into the firefighter’s actions was underway.

Telemundo 51 identified the firefighter as Robert Webster. The Miami Herald was able to confirm his identity on the record. Webster told the Spanish-language television station that he did not regret his actions.

“If he never learned the consequences of spitting in a grown man’s face, then consider my actions a public education and this video a public service announcement,” Webster said.

The Herald reached out to Webster through the firefighter union and directly through texts, phone calls and direct messages. None were returned by Wednesday afternoon.

Webster was in the news in 2017 after family photos on his desk were desecrated with drawings of a penis. Someone also left a noose hanging over the photos of the Black firefighter’s family. Six firefighters were eventually fired and 18 months later four of them were charged with criminal mischief for destroying personal property.

None of the firefighters was charged with any wrongdoing in relation to the noose. The incident took place at one of the most historic fire stations in the city, station 12 in Charles Hadley Park. The charges, though, didn’t stick and were eventually tossed. And after a series of arbitration hearings, all six firefighters were reinstated with back pay.

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