After he was found dazed, bloody and bruised with life-threatening head injuries, the 22-year-old told police that he had been jumped by four or five black men in a robbery attempt in downtown Miami.It's a story that has been largely ignored by the local community but Santiago tells us why it's so important...
His story played out for days on television and newspapers: Doctors removed a clot from his brain that could have killed him and inserted a titanium plate in his cracked skull. Jackson Memorial Hospital set up a special fund to take donations to help pay his hospital bills. The skating community rallied in support. Detectives spent countless hours investigating, trying to figure out where the presumed attack took place.
But Betancourt’s story was an ugly lie.
Turns out Betancourt slammed his head into the concrete wall of a Miami parking garage near Northwest 12th Avenue and 14th Street as he was skateboarding without a helmet. Video from the garage’s cameras shows how the young man was injured when he lost control at a turn and slammed into a pillar.
Betancourt is not old enough to remember, but this was a community torn apart in the 1980s by the killing of black men at the hands of Hispanic and white police officers, and by higher ups who covered it up. The 1960s and ’70s weren’t any better.Like Santiago, I hope that Betancourt gets well again and realizes why it's so crucial for him to stand before the media and offer up an apology to everyone, especially folks in Miami-Dade County.
A lot of people like Dunn, a professor of psychology at Florida International University, and other civic leaders from the African-American, Cuban-American, and non-Hispanic white communities spent countless hours working to foster racial and ethnic harmony, to heal wounds, to make amends.
“There has been so much progress, and then something like this happens and it reinforces in the minds of black people, here we go again, blaming us,” Dunn says. “It recycles the old feelings.”