Comedian Hannibal Buress Sues Miami Police Over 2017 Arrest

Hannibal Buress performs at the FYF Fest in Los Angeles in 2017. (Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)

MIAMI, Fla. (CN) — Popular stand-up comedian and actor Hannibal Buress says he was wrongfully arrested in Miami in a federal lawsuit filed against the city on Friday. 

Buress filed the lawsuit in Florida’s Southern District against the city, the Miami Police Department and Miami police officers Luis Verne and Elio Villegas, who arrested the comedian outside a venue in 2017.

The 37-year-old actor said that his phone had died after a night of drinking with friends, causing him to approach Verne to ask him to call an Uber.

“Moments after Defendant Officer Verne declined Mr. Buress’s request, Mr. Buress observed Defendant Officer Verne — who was wearing his MPD uniform and clearly on duty — interacting with and kissing young women who were leaving a club,” the complaint states.

After Buress cracked a joke about the officer’s alleged conduct and refusal to call a ride for him, Verne ordered the comedian to leave the street. 

Buress says he complied by entering a nearby bar to look for a phone charger, but was followed by the officer, who told him to leave that location as well. 

Buress shouted while walking away from the officer outside the bar, and Verne arrested him on a charge of disorderly intoxication. 

The case was swiftly dropped by prosecutors after the comedian was detained for about five hours.

In his recent YouTube comedy special “Miami Nights, Buress addressed the audience via Verne’s body camera footage of that night that had recorded him saying, “Hey what’s up. It’s me, Hannibal Buress. This cop’s stupid as fuck.”

The footage went viral after it was released by the Miami-Dade Police Department in 2018.

According to the 30-page complaint, the arrest was wrongful as Buress had committed no crime. 

Additionally, the comedian says Verne has been the subject of multiple investigations relating to use of force and other rights violations.

Attorneys for Buress said that the officer has not been appropriately disciplined by the police department in relation to Buress’ arrest as well as for his other alleged inappropriate conduct. 

“The MPD has a long standing, widespread policy and practice of failing to hold accountable police officers who — like Defendant Officer Verne — violate the law,” wrote attorneys with the Community Justice Civil Rights Clinic, Roderick and Solange MacArthur Justice Center and the law firm Pierre Simon. 

In 2018, Verne was disciplined for his involvement in a bar fight, which he had failed to report to the department. 

The MPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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