A Florida police officer who was filmed pushing over a kneeling Black protester during an anti-racism demonstration in May is now facing a criminal charge.
Steven Pohorence, 29, of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department was charged Tuesday with misdemeanor battery for “intentionally touching or striking” the 19-year-old woman, the Broward State Attorney’s Office announced. The charge carries a maximum sentence of up to one year in jail.
“The decision to file a misdemeanor charge was made after reviewing the victim’s medical records to see if her injury fell under the legal requirements for a misdemeanor or felony charge,” State Attorney Michael Satz said in a release.
Poherence was monitoring a May 31 rally with other officers when he was filmed pushing the woman to the ground as she knelt with her hands in the air. Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Rick Maglione, at a press conference in June, said Pohorence had entered the crowd of demonstrators to rescue a fellow officer who had become surrounded and felt endangered. The woman who was pushed to the ground did not suffer any injuries, he said.
Maglione, in a statement Tuesday, said Poherence has been placed on unpaid administrative leave amid an internal investigation into whether any departmental policies were violated.
Poherence’s defense attorney, Michael Dutko, told CBS Miami that he will plead not guilty to the charge.
“The video is just a small snippet of all of the challenging circumstances and hostilities that an officer may have been encountering and dealing with at the time,” Dutko said, adding that a call for police backup made minutes before the video was taken was “frightening.”
“What was at issue there will largely drive the narrative from the defense perspective,” he said.