FIUPD: If you’re going to arrest students, do it in public

Students protesting on Feb. 8 with officers blocking the way to Primera Casa. It was here that Ospina allegedly grabbed an officer. | Danette Heredia, PantherNOW

PantherNOW Editorial Board

Last month, an FIU student was arrested for alleged battery against an FIU police officer during a protest for Palestine, attempting to pull him into a crowd of shouting students. His ensuing arrests leaves the PantherNOW editorial board with serious questions and concerns about police conduct that day. 

Joncarlo Ospina, 23, was among protesters with Students for Justice in Palestine, Young Democratic Socialists of America and Muslim Students Association and Pakistani Students Association on Feb. 8. 

After the protest, four officers arrested him in the Green Library. According to comment after comment from other members of YDSA and other organizations on Instagram, he was in the library getting water. 

It’s been several weeks since his arrest, and according to Miami-Dade criminal court files, his arraignment is scheduled for March 8. 

FIUPD told PantherNOW reporters that Ospina’s delayed arrest in the library was done to avoid further escalating the already-tense situation between officers and protestors, lined up in front of the doors of Primera Casa. 

“He was confronted later without incident,” FIUPD Chief Alexander Casas told PantherNOW the day of the protest, justifying the arrest in the library. In a later interview, he told us that officers “ran into” Ospina there. 

“It was just where they ran into him,” Casas said in a phone interview with PantherNOW. “It was that random.” 

When asked why officers didn’t do it during the march that followed chants at PC, Casas said he couldn’t remember why officers didn’t arrest Ospina then, unsure of if they followed him to the library or not. 

“Even if they would have picked him up during the march, I could see where arresting him in front of a large group could have been incendiary,” Casas said. 

If Ospina posed such a threat, he should’ve been arrested at PC, optics be damned.

Fortunately, a student caught the library arrest on video, showing Ospina being arrested by four officers. 

Did the arrest of a single student really require four officers? Was the presence of four officers in the library that serendipitous? 

Not only are the optics terrible when it comes to arresting Ospina far away from folks who would recognize what was happening, but the delay raises the question as to how long officers kept track of his movements so they could arrest him alone. 

Further, we received an informal request from police for any photos or videos of the alleged battery by Ospina against an officer.

That in and of itself is unconcerning, but again, this raises questions. Were officers using their body cameras? 

Casas told PantherNOW he couldn’t get into any detail about body cameras while the case was still going through court, but said they had “more than enough probable cause” for the arrest. 

There may be reasonable answers to all these questions. However, in the meantime, we don’t have many of them. 

PantherNOW cannot, in any capacity, condone criminal activity. However, we also recognize that in the line of duty, university police must be transparent, maintain integrity and conduct themselves according to the highest standard of excellence and honesty in their work. 

We hope we get answers. We hope everyone involved is treated justly. But that doesn’t start in court – that begins long before.

1 Comment on "FIUPD: If you’re going to arrest students, do it in public"

  1. Chantel Bravo | March 6, 2024 at 5:21 PM | Reply

    Nowhere in this entire article does it mention that the fellow who was arrested did not in fact pull officers into the crowd of pro-Palestinian supporters. This reads as being done in attempt to de-fame the movement for Palestine and shows further accomplice that FIU has with protecting its Zionist interests. We have all seen the videos of police interaction with Ospina and the fact is that the police were the ones hostile against the individual. Yet this article protects the aggressor, that being the police. You protect yourself by saying “allegedly” yet make no mention of the truth that the community in large part has already come to note. You need to do better at protecting your students.

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