Doctor Handcuffed in Front of Home While Unloading Supplies to Help the Homeless Says He Was Profiled

"No mask all up in my face, pointing fingers trying to intimidate me like I was his child," Dr. Armen Henderson said of the incident

Dr. Armen Henderson
Photo: Democracy Now

A Florida doctor says he was racially profiled after he was handcuffed outside of his own home while unloading supplies to help the homeless.

Dr. Armen Henderson, an internist at the University of Miami Health System, spoke out about the concerning incident on Facebook on Saturday, writing, “The Miami Police Department has officers trying to cuff me for unloading boxes of tents in front of my own damn house.”

“Tents I was going to take to the houseless,” Henderson added.

“No mask all up in my face, pointing fingers trying to intimidate me like I was his child. Like it’s business as usual,” Henderson wrote.

In home security footage obtained by CNN, Henderson can be seen being apprehended by a police officer.

Henderson holds supplies in his hand with a medical mask around his face as the officer escorts him away from his van.

“If I was fairer-skin person or a white person, just doing the same thing, I don’t believe he would’ve stopped me,” Henderson told CNN.

“It was the nature of the stop that really concerned me,” Henderson said.

Henderson told CNN the incident unfolded when he said he saw the police officer drive past down a different street before making a U-turn on his street.

Henderson explained to the outlet that the officer then asked Henderson if the home was his and told Henderson that he had received complaints from neighbors about trash being left out.

Henderson told CNN that he explained to the officer that he often leaves trash in his front yard (as seen in the security footage) as that’s where Miami Dade County picks up “bulky trash.”

Henderson says the officer then proceeded to get out of his car and asked him for ID.

Henderson said he told the officer that he did not have his ID on himself at the moment, but that the house was indeed his own, he told CNN.

However, that’s when Henderson says he was handcuffed.

Henderson then called out to his wife, who was standing on the front porch with their two children, he told CNN.

“All of a sudden, he’s got his finger all up in my face, he’s pointing at me, yelling at me, saying, ‘You’re going to call me sir, call me sergeant.’ It was very humiliating.”

Henderson’s wife then approached the officer and her husband and asked why he was being handcuffed.

Henderson says the policeman said it was because Henderson had “given an attitude,” he told CNN.

The officer then asked Henderson’s wife to show him an ID, and she went back into the house and grabbed hers.

Henderson says the officer then removed the handcuffs and drove off, he told CNN.

Dr. Armen Henderson
Democracy Now

Taken aback by the encounter, Henderson filed a complaint with the Civilian Investigative Panel, he told CNN.

“He put me in danger,” Henderson said, CNN reported. “Now you’re putting my work at risk, the people that I love at risk and my patients at risk, as well.”

Miami Police Department has since released a statement regarding the incident, writing on Twitter, “We are aware of a video circulating on social media involving one of our patrol sergeants handcuffing a resident in the Flagami NET area. An internal affairs investigation is underway and is looking into the incident.”

Chief of Police Jorge Colina released a video statement, condemning racial profiling.

“The City of Miami Police Department does not condone or accept profiling of any kind,” Colina said. “We’ve been made aware of a video that’s been circulating of an encounter that occurred on Friday on April the 10. This encounter involves a City of Miami Police Sergeant, who stops outside of a resident’s home.”

Colina went on to explain the reason for the stop, saying, “We have had a litany of complaints pertaining to illegal dumping.”

“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,” Colina said.

As for Henderson’s treatment, Colina said that will be investigated.

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Henderson, who also spoke out to Democracy Now, has been hailed as a local hero for the work he’s doing to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Henderson has been working closely with the homeless population in Florida, providing them with testing for the virus.

“I want the officer held accountable,” Henderson said of the policeman before shedding light on his work.

“I want an apology, but outside of that. I think the bigger picture is that I was going to serve homeless individuals throughout Miami-Dade County. For someone who doesn’t have a house, it’s very impossible to [shelter in place].”

“These are the individuals that sleep on benches and because of that — when you’re talking about public health response to a pandemic — you have to focus on those individuals who are using the public spaces the most,” Henderson told Democracy Now.

“It’s been hard to get testing if you’re not a basketball player, if you’re not a rich person. We did a survey… and identified people who needed to be tested and because we are the epicenter of the epidemic and this is the most vulnerable population I just figure we should be testing people at random as well,” Henderson said.

Henderson was previously interviewed by the Miami Herald on his work, to whom he said, “I feel this is essential to protecting the public’s health.”

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.

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