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Florida woman nearly blinded by cops while protesting peacefully testifies to DC lawmakers

Meghan Bobrowsky, Alex Daugherty and Nicholas Nehamas, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

"She suffered permanent injuries at the hands of police, I still don't know if I have," Ratlieff said in her opening statement. "I have little to no vision on my right eye, doctors don't know if that will change."

She was later questioned by Wasserman Schultz and committee Chairman Jamie Raskin, a Maryland Democrat.

"It was absolutely astonishing to me that in our community that we could have had this kind of police overreaction," Wasserman Schultz said. "Did you hear any warning before either the tear gas or rubber bullets were fired?"

"Unfortunately, after what happened to me that wasn't any verbal warning," Ratlieff said. "Since that day and a little over a week after what happened, I couldn't chew for over a week. I still have vision issues in my eye. I still have extreme light sensitivity."

Ratlieff said she hasn't received an apology from Fort Lauderdale police.

Meanwhile, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said he was surprised Ratlieff was addressing Congress and the media but had not yet given a statement to police internal affairs investigators.

"She lawyered up," Trantalis said. "What do the lawyers say? I'm a lawyer. I know what I'd tell a client. Don't ever speak to the other side. But there is urgency.

"I know they're looking to posture and weigh their options going forward and they want to make sure that their client doesn't say the wrong thing as they build their case against the city, but the public has a right to understand what's happening as soon as possible," he continued. "People want to know. For these folks to hold back, I think interferes with that process. We're not getting to the bottom of it as quickly as we need to."

 

Police posted a similar statement on Twitter.

Evan Ross, a spokesman for Ratlieff, responded: "After shooting her in the head for peacefully and lawfully exercising her First Amendment rights, Fort Lauderdale police continue their assault on LaToya Ratlieff and her right to free speech. Given that their own incident report acknowledges that she was an innocent victim, the chief should be issuing an apology rather than attacking LaToya for sharing her experience with the public."

Ratlieff's testimony comes as Congress is at an impasse over reforms involving police conduct.

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill last week largely along party lines that overhauls qualified immunity for law enforcement, prohibits no-knock warrants in federal drug cases, and bans police chokeholds at the federal level and classifies them as a civil rights violation. A more limited proposal in the Republican-controlled Senate was blocked by Democrats, who argued the bill doesn't go far enough. It's unclear if the two chambers will find a compromise.

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