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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Man Says Cop Tased the Wrong Guy

(CN) - A Sweetwater, Fla., police officer Tased first and asked questions later according to lawsuit filed by the man who took the bolts after he was chased from a restaurant by an allegedly crazed former relative.

Lazaro Cancela says in a complaint filed in Miami-Dade County that he was enjoying a quiet meal with his girlfriend in a popular Cuban restaurant, when their conversation was interrupted by Gerald Brito, his former stepfather.

Brito had recently divorced Cancela's mother, and as described in the complaint, the sight of his former stepson evidently filled him with range.

"Mr. Brito approached Cancela and made derogatory statements," the complaint says. "Very quickly, the situation escalated to the point where Mr. Brito threatened physical violence and removed his belt; swinging it over his head, attempting to strike Cancela with his belt buckle."

Cancela says fearing injury, he left the restaurant, ran through the mall in which it was located, and eventually made it to the parking lot, "all the while being chased by Mr. Brito who was still trying to strike him with his belt buckle."

Just as he reached his car and attempted to get inside, Cancela says he was confronted by a City of Sweetwater police officer, who apparently believed he must have done something to inspire Brito to chase him.

"Suddenly and without any warning," Cancela says, the officer shot him with the Taser.

"Cancela slammed to the ground, and struck the right side of his jaw on a concrete parking bumper sustaining a serious fracture of his jaw which required surgery with internal fixation with two plates and nine screws."

Immediately after Cancela was Tasered by the officer, Cancela's girlfriend and others told the policeman he's zapped the wrong man, and that the person that should be arrested was Brito, who by now had run off.

Cancela says the officer apologized for his actions, and said he would call his supervisor to find out what to do. But the supervisor told the officer to arrest Cancela anyway and let the court sort the situation out.

After enduring his false arrest on top of his injuries, the case against him was dropped, Cancela says.

He seeks compensatory and punitive damages on claims of assault, battery and false arrest.

Cancela is represented by Domingo Rodriguez of Miami.

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