Dr. Armen Henderson, an internal medicine physician at the University of Miami Health System, was detained by an unnamed Miami-Dade police sergeant on Friday while attempting to do charitable work for the community’s homeless population.
“He just said, ‘Are you littering over here? Do you live here? Do you work here?’ And I was like, ‘Yes, I live here. This is where we put our bulky trash, and the city comes to pick it up every week at this same place,’" Henderson told ABC News.
He went on to explain that he and a group of volunteers with a homeless outreach group have been regularly distributing goods such as tents, toiletries, masks and socks to the homeless in downtown Miami. Additionally, Henderson, who takes care of COVID-19 patients during his night shifts at the University of Miami Health System, and others have been testing those downtown for the novel coronavirus.
“If you want to control the spread, you have to go right to the source and take care of these individuals first," he explained to the outlet.
Despite him being in front of his own house, the sergeant, who initially stayed in his vehicle, got out after Henderson answered his questions and attempted to get back to work.
“He jumped out of the car and started yelling, 'You call me sergeant when I'm talking to you, and blah, blah, blah. And, you know what, give me your ID,’” he recounted. The cop then pulled out his handcuffs and detained Henderson until his wife came outside and produced his ID.
"He didn’t apologize. He just got in his car and drove away," Henderson said.
Aside from the possible racial profiling, Henderson said that he felt that the cop put him at risk for COVID-19 because he was not wearing a mask or practicing social distancing during the encounter.
"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."
Days prior, the Miami Police Department issued a “plea to the public,” which noted that a total of six officers had tested positive for the novel coronavirus and some 125 were quarantined as they awaited results from their tests.
Henderson also detailed the encounter and his work with the homeless community in an April 11 Facebook post, promising to call greater attention to the economic inequality in Miami.
"Let me start by saying that the City of Miami Police Department does not condone or accept profiling of any kind," Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina said in a recent statement uploaded to Facebook “to provide a little bit of context” to the April 10 situation.
“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."