Miami police launch investigation after doctor who tests homeless for coronavirus handcuffed outside home

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The Miami Police Department on Saturday launched an investigation into the detainment of a doctor who was leading an effort to test the city’s homeless population for the coronavirus.

Dr. Armen Henderson was put in handcuffs outside his home in Miami’s Flagami neighborhood Friday by a City of Miami Police sergeant. The incident was captured on a security camera at Henderson’s residence. The doctor later provided the video to the Miami Herald.

In his own video message shared on Twitter Saturday, Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina said Henderson was temporarily detained after it appeared he was illegally offloading trash from a cargo van outside his home.

Henderson told the Herald he was released after he yelled for his wife, who brought out his identification.  The video showed Henderson was wearing a mask; the police sergeant was not.

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“The City of Miami Police Department does not condone or accept profiling of any kind,” Colina said. “I’m making that statement because I’ve been made aware of a video that has been circulating of an encounter that occurred on Friday, April 10, in the Flagami neighborhood.”

“We have had a litany of complaints involving illegal dumping. The commissioner from that area has received many complaints as well from constituents. There is a cargo van that appears in front of that home where there appears to be trash being offloaded. That is the genesis of the stop.

“Now, what happens after that – what’s being discussed, the actions taken, etc. All that needs to be investigated and it will be investigated,” Colina said.

Henderson works in Internal Medicine at the University of Miami Health System. Two weeks ago, the doctor was featured in a separate story by the Miami Herald for his work administering COVID-19 tests to the homeless population in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood.

Henderson, who teamed up with The Smile Trust, Dream Defenders and a nonprofit called Showering Love to bring services to people experiencing homelessness, was photographed wearing a mask, face shield, and gloves while sliding a swab into a homeless man’s nasal cavity before depositing the sample into a tube to be tested for COVID-19.

Calling his work in the community “an act of civil disobedience,” Henderson organized volunteers, also clad in personal protective equipment, to help distribute tents and offer other services to the homeless despite the county’s orders to stay at home, The Herald reported.

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South Florida is the worst stricken by the virus in the state. Miami Dade County officials issued a stay-at-home order after Miami Mayor Francis Suarez began to self-isolate on March 12 as a precaution after showing mild symptoms of COVID-19. He tested positive the next day and later recovered after spending more than two weeks in self-quarantine.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, initially issued a “safer at home” order for four counties – Broward, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Monroe – before extending the lockdown statewide on April 1.

Florida has recorded at least 18,986 confirmed cases, with at least 438 deaths by Sunday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University.