This came out a couple days ago, but I haven’t had a chance to write it up. A deputy with the Lee County Sheriff’s Office was dismissed after a complaint about excessive force. The internal affairs investigation actually cited him for several things, including not being forthcoming in his report of the incident. He pulled a woman out of her car at gunpoint, while the car was still in gear, and she ended up being dragged along side it for a moment. Fortunately, nobody was hurt.
While this isolated incident pales in comparison to the recent wave of suspensions after the city-commissioned audit of Fort Myers PD, it is nonetheless disturbing. The encouraging thing is that we are not talking about a cover, rather that the deputy had consequences for his actions. Sheriff Mike Scott has shown time and again that he will act swiftly to punish misbehavior to protect the reputation of his department, particularly when there is any indication of dishonesty from his team. That’s the first step in building a strong reputation and confidence in the community.
Also troubling is that the woman’s attorney indicated to NBC2’s Jaclyn Bevis that there were not made aware that another witness had come forward, nor that there was an internal affairs investigation on the case. That sort of information is known as “Brady” material: which must be turned over to the defense. The failure to turn that over in discovery is likely a violation, and could result in the conviction being thrown out. The woman involved did get a reduced charge from DUI to reckless driving, which was already probably due to the arresting deputy’s aggressive behavior.
Fox4 has uploaded the raw video:
The Naples Police Department is currently fighting a Federal lawsuit for police misconduct, and the allegations that have come out in the course of the case are more and more shocking. In an affidavit filed Monday, a former Naples officer stated that he and his fellow officers were “constantly pressured” to increase numbers for arrests, stops, and citations, and that supervisors would chastise officers who did not “produce statistics”. The affidavit makes it sound as though the department had a de facto quota system that encouraged officers to be reckless.
The lawsuit claims over a million dollars in damages against former Officer Kyle Bradshaw, who has since left the department. The city was dismissed from the case, but could still end up on the hook for at least part of the damages Bradshaw could be facing. Bradshaw’s attorney contends he was just doing his job. Naples police, including Bradshaw, initially responded to Bayfront for a noise complaint, and things escalated quickly. There is video of the incident, which has been played to the jury for dramatic effect for the beating allegedly given to the suspects. The trial continues in Fort Myers this week.
Screenshot of video posted by Daniel Wirka
Social media, and citizen journalists, again demonstrate their importance to the system. After a social media post that depicted an officer throwing a woman to the ground, the Cape Coral Police Department has initiated an internal review, and put the officer involved on paid leave.
They have not yet ruled that his actions were unwarranted, but the video seems to demonstrate that he may have been more violent than necessary. There did not appear to be an immediate threat, and the officer did not even appear to identify himself before flinging her to the ground. It will be interesting to see what the brass says about this one…
It should be noted, the woman is clearly committing a battery by pushing and striking the man before the cop arrives, and would have also been subject to arrest for disorderly conduct.The issue is whether he handled the arrest appropriately. Kudos to the the Cape Coral PD for acting swiftly to address what will be a contentious issue.
You can watch the video on the CCPD web page: http://www.capecops.com/newsroom/2016/3/14/p
Sarah Graham has been accused of no crime, and the Naples News found no record of criminal history. She was stopped by a deputy-in-training and he asked to search her. When she responded that she knew her rights and declined to search, the deputy didn’t take it very well. She alleges that she started to leave and he proceeded to Tase her until she collapsed to the ground, and that he tased her again while she lay on the ground convulsing. The deputy, Brian Gardner, was subsequently reprimanded for improper use of non-deadly force, and reassigned from road training to the corrections department.
First, Ms. Graham is absolutely correct. She has a right to decline being searched. While a deputy may engage in a consensual encounter if he has no reasonable suspicion of a crime going on, the key word is consensual. He can only talk to someone as long as they consent to continue the encounter. They have a right to walk away, and he has a duty to let them go. Cops frequently don’t understand this. The report indicates he was reprimanded for his use of force. Secondly, he should also have been reprimanded for the illegal detention that he attempted. Ms. Graham has a strong suit against the department and Mr. Gardner, though I don’t know if her injuries warrant the maximum, which she is requesting.
A friend who was formerly in law enforcement feels that tasers can be the worst tool available to police. Where high restraint must be used before an officer is justified in using a firearm (deadly force), a much lower bar can be used to argue justification for a taser. That leads to officers overusing the taser, and freqently, as there are often no consequences. I applaud Ms. Graham for seeking to impose consequences for this dereliction of duty.
This lawsuit comes right on the heels of another lawsuit that was just settled by LCSO. They paid a “substantial” unnamed settlement to the family of Nicholas Christie, who was pepper sprayed to death while restrained to a chair in the Lee County Jail. Sheriff Mike Scott indicated that money will be paid by insurance. Both these cases represent substantial legal expenses that find their was from our tax dollars, either through legal fees, insurance premiums, or costly payouts. Both represent failures in training and restraint by the deputies sworn to protect us. Also see the story from a few days ago about the Collier deputy who punched a guy after he surrendered.
UPDATE: Settlement is for 4 million dollars. See link in the comments…
Posted in 4th Amendment - Search & Seizure, Civil, Criminal Law, Fort Myers / Lee County / Southwest Florida #SWFL, Police
Tagged bad cops, brian gardner, excessive force, fort myers, lcso, mike scott, sarah graham, wrongful death
This gallery contains 4 photos.
Here are some freeze frames from the cruiser video. Deputy Lewis claims he struck Mr. Falconi in the chest and shoved him to the ground. It looks like a pretty strong jab to the jaw. Note the follow through, and … Continue reading
The punch, in Freeze Frame
22-year old Mateo Falconi gave it up. After leading police on an extremely high-speed chase for six miles, Falconi came to a dead-end and decided to surrender, as evidenced by the fact that he stopped, got off his bike, and raised his hands. At that point, Deputy Robert Lewis jumped out of his patrol car, gun drawn, ran up to Falconi, and took him down with a vicious punch with his closed right fist. Lewis jumped on Falconi and roughed him up pretty good while trying to subdue him. Deputy Lewis says Falconi refused to give up his hands, although Falconi jumped on him, and he and another deputy punched him repeatedly before tasering him into submission. At no point does Falconi threaten or otherwise offer to do violence. Watch the story, and the full video on NBC-2.com.
Now, Falconi obviously is in a lot of trouble for high-speed fleeing, which he probably did because he was carrying a big bag of weed in his backpack. He earned himself a couple of felony charges for those offenses. However, the behavior of the cop certainly bears the hallmarks of excessiveness. Nobody is going to begrudge law enforcement officers the right to use force to defend themselves, but I have doubts over the propriety of force when a suspect offers himself in non-violent surrender. This is bad policy for law enforcement, as it discourages suspects from peacefully surrendering. If you’re going to give up and put your hands up, but still get beat… why would anyone put their hands up? What else could Falconi have done to give himself up?
NBC-2 got their hands on the police report, which is worth a read. It’s a textbook example of how a cop changes a story to justify what he did. First, he makes reference to Falconi possibly fleeing on foot. That’s misleading because Falconi immediately turned to face the officer and raised his arms. He could not have done that any better, because if he had stayed on the bike, there was the risk that he would have restarted it. The officer claims he then instructed Falconi to get on the ground. The video shows that he first tells Falconi to put his hands up. Falconi can’t win! He did exactly what the cop told him to do. The video shows that Lewis actually did tell him to get on the ground, but never gave him a chance to do it. Lewis claims to have struck Falconi in the chest, pushing him to the ground, but it sure looks like he straight cracks Falconi in the jaw. It is clear on the video that Falconi had completely given himself up, both before being taken down, then again on the ground when Lewis had the gun to his head. The cops created the situation where Falconi didn’t cooperate, or was unable to cooperate, by their actions after he surrender. This is a textbook example of what not to do… just terrible, terrible police work.
Falconi is suing the Collier County Sheriff’s Department for excessive force. He is still facing the possiblity of many years in prison for high-speed fleeing, and felony possession of marijuana. He may not end up being the only person in this incident facing charges.
Posted in Civil, Criminal Law, Florida, Naples / Collier / Southwest Florida, Police, Uncategorized
Tagged badcops, collier, excessive force, fleeing, marijuana, naples, police, resisting
Fascinating story from Fox 4’s Mike Mason about an excessive force allegation. So many cases like this are he said/she said type deals, and the cops frequently get the benefit of the doubt. This one is on video, and the video seems to contradict the deputy’s statement that she “struck Deputy Hill in the arm and chest multiple times.” Apparently, their attorney is pushing for the charges to get dropped. The problem with that is, the video clearly shows the daughter taking a swing at the deputy. You cannot swing at law enforcement, even if you miss it is still a crime.
It looks like both parties are in the wrong, and both should be held accountable. A check at the Lee Clerk indicates that the mother’s charge for obstruction was dropped. I don’t know the father’s name to follow-up on that case. I do wonder why the deputy was bothering to arrest those gentlemen for their open containers, when he could’ve just issued citations; especially if they were staying at the house next door.
Matias police report
You can follow Mason on twitter @mikemason72