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Internal review board exonerates Florida officer after woman shot in the face with a rubber bullet at protest

According to a report, the woman wasn't the 'intended target,' thus making the detective's actions 'justified' by law and department policy.
Credit: AP
LaToya Ratlieff looks at a photograph of herself, Friday, June 12, 2020, in Lauderhill, Fla. Ratlieff was hit in the face by a police officer's rubber bullet during a Fort Lauderdale protest over the death of George Floyd on May 31. Protests continue in support of Floyd, a black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A Fort Lauderdale police officer accused of shooting a woman in the face with a rubber bullet during a demonstration protesting George Floyd's death last May has been cleared of charges by an internal review board. 

According to a report, Detective Eliezer Ramos was exonerated on charges he violated two department policies. He was cleared of "careless or reckless use of a firearm, baton, or other weapon" and "unnecessary use of force." 

On May 31, LaToya Ratlieff was hit in the face with a police officer's rubber bullet during a protest in Fort Lauderdale over the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis police custody last year. 

While the report says the protest was largely peaceful, it says after the "original event" was over some protesters gathered around police cars and threw "projectiles" at officers inside their cars. 

Because of this, the report says SWAT responded and eventually deployed tear gas canisters to try to disperse protesters. As this was happening, the report says video from police body cameras and social media shows several protesters pick up the canisters and throw them back towards SWAT operators. 

According to the report, Detective Ramos saw a person reach for a gas canister and pointed his "40 mm less-lethal weapon" at them. At the same time, Ratlieff crossed between Ramos and the protester and was shot in the face as a result, the report says. 

The report says an expert said Detective Ramos' firing his non-lethal weapon was justified by law and department policy. And while Ratlieff was "unfortunately struck," Ramos' action was not "done so in a reckless manner." 

"Although it is clear Ms. Ratlieff was struck by a foam baton projectile deployed by Detective Ramos, evidence confirms she was not the intended target," the report stated. 

After she was shot, Ratlieff suffered a fractured skull and required 20 stitches for her injury. 

RELATED: Video shows Florida police laughing after shooting rubber bullets

According to CBS Miami, Ratlieff's attorney criticized the investigation and its results.

“This investigation was incomplete. It was a sham investigation that was clearly geared toward making sure there was a determination that detective Ramos’ conduct was justified,” Ratlieff’s attorney Michael David told CBS Miami.

Interim Police Chief Patrick Lynn offered an apology to LaToya Ratlieff during a news conference. “On behalf of the men and women of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, I want to express my sincere apology for the experience you have had with our police department,” he said. 

You can watch the department's full news conference here

RELATED: Fort Lauderdale police chief removed after criticism about department's handling of protests

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